Microhabitat selection and the successional gradient of a forest grass

TitleMicrohabitat selection and the successional gradient of a forest grass
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1986
AuthorsScheiner SM, Teeri JA
JournalCanadian Journal of Botany

Secondary forest succession involves large changes in the environment of the forest floor. Populations of Danthonia spicata occur in sites representing a 70-year span of succession following fire in the aspen-pine forests of northern lower Michigan. Five populations were studied from sites of ages 0, 26, 32, 44, and 69 years after fire. Four populations were in sites that were clear-cut and burned; one population occurred on the site of a natural burn. Environmental measurements in the sites revealed large differences with respect to light, soil water, and soil nutrients. We investigated the extent to which microhabitat selection was responsible for the persistence of D. spicata across the 70-year successional gradient. On three sites the D. spicata populations were in locations with a higher mean light level than the mean value for the site. During a 3-week period of no rain the plants in the four experimental burn sites were observed to occur in locations with a lower mean soil water potential than the mean for the site. It appears that microhabitat selection significantly altered the successional gradient as experienced by these populations of D. spicata.