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Presettlement magnolia beech climax of the gulf coastal plain quantitative evidence from the apalachicola river bluffs north central florida usa

Presettlement magnolia beech climax of the gulf coastal plain quantitative evidence from the apalachicola river bluffs north central florida usa

Ecology (Washington D C) 58(5): 1085-1093

The presettlement vegetation mosaic bordering the Apalachicola River in the Panhandle of Florida [USA] reconstructed from General Land Office Survey records of 1824-1825, consisted of upland pine-oak forest, open pine flatwoods, mesic hardwood hammock, tributary stream hardwoods and Apalachicola floodplain swamp. Longleaf pine forest interspersed with blackjack, red and post oaks occupied the sandy uplands east of the Apalachicola River. Alluvial terraces west of the river supported pine stands probably dominated by longleaf and slash pines. The mesic hammock forest of the river bluffs was comprised of an admixture of hardwood species, dominated by magnolia and beech. The tributary bottomlands community consisted primarily of bay, holly and beech; the Apalachicola floodplain forest was dominated by bay, gum and oak. The magnolia-beech forest of the Apalachicola River bluffs represents the 2nd mesic upland magnolia-beech forest quantitatively documented for the original vegetation of the Gulf Coastal Plain and is the 1st such record for Florida. The concept of the magnolia-beech climax forest is reinstated here for the original vegetation of the southern Gulf and Atlantic coastal plains, the region of overlap in distributions of Magnolia grandiflora and Fagus grandifolia. Modern forest-management practices that include fire suppression and selective lumbering are causing both a shift from pine to hardwood dominance on sandy upland sites and a change from magnolia-beech to mixed hardwood dominance on mesic sites throughout the southern coastal plains. The southern mixed hardwood forest climax represents a converging trend of modern and future vegetation of the south toward a new climax different from that existing in the presettlement vegetation.

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