Peri-urban natural areas, at the boundaries of cities and adjacent agricultural/rural land, are subject to ecological threats endemic to both land use types. We used permanent plots to document changes in habitat quality by monitoring herbaceous-layer plant species presence and cover over a decade (1996/97 and 2007) in two peri-urban nature preserves in central Indiana, U.S.A. The preserves are comprised of different forest community types: wet-mesic depressional forest and mesic upland forest. Habitat characteristics, based on Floristic Quality Assessment parameters, showed only a single change for either preserve between survey years: wetness values were lower in the wet-mesic depressional site in 2007 than in 1996, indicating more plants with affinity for wet soil. No changes in community structure (total species richness, evenness, and diversity) were found. The number of nonnative species increased between survey years, especially in the wet-mesic depressional forest, where numbers went from zero to six, five of which are classified as invasive. There was considerable turnover in individual species presence, with perennial forb species the most likely species to be found in only 1 y or the other. Species did not rearrange themselves within plots, but completely appeared or disappeared from all plots within a preserve between the sample years, suggesting that species composition of the flora is dynamic. Management recommendations, including those related to evidence of heavy deer browse, are presented based on our findings. Repeat monitoring of our plots in future decades will allow quantification of any extinction debt that may now be in place due to the increased presence of nonnative species, especially invasive shrubs escaped from landscaping.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/rebecca_dolan/64/