Long-term spatial dynamics of Acer saccharum during a population explosion in an old-growth remnant forest in Illinois

Yiching Lin, Carol K. Augspurger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Species richness and evenness have greatly declined in oak-hickory forests in the central hardwood region in the U.S.A. in the past 100 years due to the rapid population growth of Acer saccharum. This study used a 50-year record of spatial dynamics to examine how demographic processes, particularly recruitment, may have contributed to this increase in an old-growth forest remnant, Brownfield Woods, Urbana, Illinois, U.S.A. The impact of canopy disturbance, including the outbreak of Dutch elm disease, on this increase was also evaluated. Historical maps of trees (≥7.6 cm DBH) from 1951, 1988, and 2001 in a 180 m × 280 m area were used to develop a series of univariate Ripley's L(d) functions to study changes in spatial patterns of three size classes of A. saccharum over time. Bivariate Ripley's L(d) functions were also utilized to evaluate spatial associations between recruitment and canopy disturbance. Our results indicated that A. saccharum was aggregated at most spatial scales up to 80 m during 1951-2001. Such aggregation arose mainly from small individuals. Furthermore, newly recruited individuals were aggregated at multiple spatial scales, and were significantly associated with canopy disturbance in general, as well as gaps created by Ulmus trees killed by Dutch elm disease. The aggregation of the 1951 initial group of small individuals changed via mortality to a random distribution over time. The results indicate that tree deaths caused by disturbances of different scales and types were the main cause of increased recruitment of A. saccharum in Brownfield Woods. The occurrence of Dutch elm disease further accelerated its population increase. This study demonstrated a direct spatial link between recruitment of A. saccharum and disturbance, and provided a long-term case study of a population explosion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)922-928
Number of pages7
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 20 2008


  • Acer saccharum
  • Disturbance
  • Dutch elm disease
  • Forest dynamics
  • Historical data
  • Mortality
  • Point patterns
  • Recruitment
  • Ripley's L(d) function
  • Spatial pattern

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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