Effects of agricultural soil loss on forest succession rates and tree diversity in east Tennessee Academic Article uri icon


  • All land on what is today the Oak Ridge Reservation, Tennessee, was abandoned in 1942 when the United States government acquired the land for atomic weapons development. Most of the land now serves as a buffer around the government facilities and has not been managed, providing an opportunity to study forest succession on simultaneously abandoned fields. We sampled forest vegetation and soils on former pastures that had sustained varying levels of pre-abandonment soil loss. The most eroded sites are still covered with forests of an early-successional composition, with shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) and Virginia pine (P. virginiana) dominating. Hardwoods, particularly oaks (Quercus) and hickories (Carya), dominate the least degraded former pastures. Canopy tree species diversity is highest at the least degraded sites, which also have the highest levels of soil nitrogen. These results suggest that soil degradation reduces the rate of secondary succession and thereby slows the increase in species diversity typical of early forest succession, while increasing the spatial complexity of the landscape.

published proceedings

  • Oikos

author list (cited authors)

  • Lafon, C. W., Huston, M. A., & Horn, S. P

citation count

  • 18

complete list of authors

  • Lafon, Charles W||Huston, Michael A||Horn, Sally P

publication date

  • September 2000


published in