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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2008

  • Title: The effects of soil warming, N-addition and fern patches on fern litter decay in northeastern temperate forests.
  • Primary Author: Catherine Cardelus (University of Florida)
  • Abstract:

    Fern patches are a conspicuous and important component of the understory in temperate hardwood forests. Fern patches are shown to decrease species richness of both herbaceous and hardwood taxa (i.e. Quercus, Acer, Betula and Prunus) and at least one study has argued that fern patches can alter forest regeneration. In this way, ferns act as ecosystem engineers, affecting the species composition of the present forest which will affect the species composition of future forests in that patch. The reduction in the establishment success of hardwoods has been solely attributed to microenvironmental factors. For example, ferns reduce the light environment below them likely preventing seedling establishment and growth. Structurally ferns are quite different than seed plants. Most species have relatively thin leaves whose lamina decomposes rapidly, for this reason, these fern patches may affect soil nutrient dynamics in addition to microenvironment. In order to determine if soil warming, N-addition and fern patches affect fern litter decay, I am conducting a small, preliminary, 1-year decomposition study of Dennstaedia punctata in existing control, warming and N-addition plots of Dr. Serita Frey and Alexandra Contosta and within fern patches. With these preliminary results, I will conduct a large in situ experiment to mechanistically study how fern patches regulate forest regeneration and how this dynamic may change with perturbations of soil warming and increased N-deposition.

  • Research Category: Soil Carbon and Nitrogen Dynamics