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01-07-2003 | Research | Issue 1/2003

Environmental Management 1/2003

Impact of Fencing on the Recovery of the Ground Flora on Heavily Eroded Slopes of a Deciduous Forest

Journal:
Environmental Management > Issue 1/2003
Authors:
Sandrine Godefroid, Wim Massant, Gisèle Weyembergh, Nico Koedam

Abstract

This paper seeks to outline early stages in the recovery of forest ground flora on eroded slopes impacted by recreation activities and to suggest how these data might be applied in the formulation of management policies for forest recreation areas. Based on a fencing experiment in the Sonian Forest near Brussels, we investigated whether, over a 6-year period, the vegetation was able to recover after having been destroyed by recreation use. Short-term trends in overall species composition were already observable during this 6-year study. Species recovery on eroded hills was related to slope, aspect, and soil type. During the considered time scale, the proportion of hemicryptophytes and the number of ancient forest species increased significantly. A downward trend was detected for Ellenberg’s nitrogen and temperature indexes and for the proportion of therophytes and pioneer plants of disturbed places. Changes in species’ frequencies suggest six recovery strategies: early, late, expanding, disappearing, transient, and fluctuating species. Aside from seedling reproduction from overstory influences, Luzula sylvatica appeared to be the most resilient of the species identified in the study since this species has the highest global frequency in our sampling plots and has increased its cover during the study period. Study results indicate that (1) protection from recreation has initiated the recovery of species in the herb layer, but (2) it may take a long time before vegetation previously present in the ground flora may recover in both density and species composition.

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