Frost and Forest Stand Effects on the Population Dynamics of Asplenium scolopendrium

P. Bremer, E. Jongejans

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Our objective was to analyze which factors are critical for the dynamics of terrestrial Asplenium scolopendrium populations at the northern edge of its distribution. Therefore, a long-term study (1978–1999) on the performance and demography of this fern species has been carried out in three different forest stands (Picea sitchensis with Fagus sylvatica, P. sitchensis with thinning, and Fraxinus excelsior) in the Netherlands. We used the recorded demographic data to parameterize 37 transition matrices. The number of frost days in severe winters correlated closely with frond damage and resulted in increased mortality and retrogression. Landslip on the trench banks and intraspecific competition were also found to increase mortality. In the F. excelsior plot, plants grew faster and bigger, produced more fronds and formed a more closed fern cover than in the P. sitchensis stands, likely due to higher light levels. Life-table response experiments revealed that reproduction contributed greatly to the differences in projected population growth rates: reproduction was importantly higher in the F. excelsior and in the thinned P. sitchensis plots than in the P. sitchensis–F. sylvatica plot. These differences can be attributed to an initial difference in light climate and to the accumulation of F. sylvatica litter which reduced recruitment. Recruitment occurred on bare soil but also in open moss carpets. We expect that the fern Asplenium scolopendrium will profit at its northern distribution edge when severe winters will occur less frequently, which is one of the expectations for global climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-222
JournalPopulation Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • central new-york
  • perennial herbs
  • carduus-nutans
  • var americana
  • demography
  • netherlands
  • thistle
  • range
  • fern

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