Native Plant Communities Definition   Steve Galehouse
  Jan 08, 2007 04:20 PST 

Edward Frank wrote:

As we continue to try to find a way to characterize the aesthetics of a
site, and figure out the structure of how to rank sites by their
biological importance and aesthetics we should continue to look at a
broad range of approaches. I found a nice description of Native Plant
communities in the Minnesota DNR website:




How do we categorize native plant associations that have significantly
changed due to reduction of native species( white elm, chestnut, soon to
be native ashes in general, and hemlock), as opposed to alien introduction?

Also, the species makeup of some "native" plant communities seems to be
a judgment call, in that we don't really know the agents of dispersal of
some trees, especially black locust, persimmon, and pecan( and is range
extension caused by squirrels, possums, or raccoons any more valid than
intentional planting by native peoples prior to European settlement?).

As I walk through our local metro-park, I see all the native trees and
shrubs I would expect to see--red, black, pin, bur, and white oaks; red,
sugar, and black maples; hornbeam, white and green ash--but also Norway
maple looking happy as a clam, growing and competing enthusiastically,
as well as Japanese holly and burning bush looking as though it's always
been there in the understory.

This is just an observation, but it could be that our view of
"nativeness" is just a "snapshot in time" construct.

Given all of that, it still is hard to beat the aspect of a forest like
Hueston Woods in late April.

Steve Galehouse

Re: Native Plant Communities Definition
  Jan 08, 2007 07:28 PST 

An excellent opportunity for me to segue back to a post where I was
advocating for understory representation in the data collected at
old-growth/exceptional tree sites. Bob makes a good point in that the
communities may have changed drastically over time, but I'd say that
they are what they are, and they're what we have representing the
site's associations...who knows what lurks in the seed banks!
RE: Native Plant Communities Definition   Edward Frank
  Jan 09, 2007 15:44 PST 


I don't know the answer to your question. I am searching for different
ways to look at various aspects of naturalness and want to share this
definition with the ENTS community.

Re: Native Plant Communities Definition   Joshua Kelly
  Jan 10, 2007 00:08 PST 


Questions about nativeness and naturalness define the restoration efforts of
today. Visually and competitively, your "snapshot in time" makes sense.
However, from the perspective of evolutionary ecology, a "snapshot" of 100
years of exotic organism introductions severely alters evolutionary
relationships that have been in place for time spans several orders of
magnitude longer. A snapshot of your local metro park in another 100 years
will probably reveal a forest more strongly dominated by Norway maple,
barberry and maybe bittersweet. Sometimes it seems that we as a culture
attempt to alleviate our collective guilt for wrecking havoc on balanced
ecosystems by seeing Homo domesticus as Mother Nature's most effective
dispersal agent. Truly effective dispersal agents don't destabilize the
natural communities they rely on to survive. My thoughts about humans as
agents of natural disturbance are similar. For these reasons, I value
efforts to maintain natural communities composed of species with long
evolutionary histories on this continent and disturbance regimes that don't
rely on humans - or where humans mimic natural processes no longer
economically desirable at large scales.

Although I do not to agree with the notion that Japanese holly is part of
our native plant communities, I don't think its presence excludes a whole
forest from being native. In this case, disagreement about the definition
of native plant communities has led me to some engaging thoughts.

Thanks for bringing it up,