Dieback in the Native Shrub, Lindera benzoin: A Subtle Effect of Forest Fragmentation

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I report on a documented dieback in spicebush, Lindera benzoin, after the winter of 1993-1994 in two mature deciduous forest stands in southwestern Ohio. The study compares differences between 67 ha Hueston Woods and 5.2 ha Kramer Woods and examines spatial patterns of decline in Kramer Woods. Local daily minimum temperatures in January 1994 were among the coldest on record since 1889. The shrub is one of the most important understory species in both forests, but relative basal area measures of dead stems were significantly less in Hueston Woods (mean = 54% of the total) than in Kramer Woods (86%). Spicebush shows a clustered distribution in Kramer Woods, present on a flat upland area along the northern edge. Only two points with spicebush showed no decline and they are >60 m from the north edge and along streams. Dieback was up to 100% for plots with mean shrub heights >1.5 m, resulting in a significant understory gap. These findings identify important differences between and within forest patches that appear attributable to fragmentation effects. Forest conservation plans need to better capture a diversity of topographic settings or incorporate buffer zones along edges to better ensure the protection of native flora in human-dominated landscapes.


Author Institution: Department of Geography, Miami University



The Ohio Journal of Science. v96, n4-5 (September-December, 1996), 76-80