Age and Growth Rate of Trees Along Forest-Meadow Ecotones
The Forest-Meadow ecotone, a transitional zone between two different plant communities, is common around Montana and especially the eastern flank of the continental divide. These boundaries are often rich in different plant, animal and bird species and could play a role in helping us better understand our forests and how they might respond to climate change. In observing these areas, where slopes change in aspect from north to south, the forest and meadow boundary line is very distinct. In some areas the boundary is more diffuse. We have observed in some areas that trees along the edge of the meadow are noticeably smaller than the ones located in the tree stand. This phenomenon raises a few questions; are these smaller ‘meadow trees’ younger, indicating that the forest is extending out? Or are they older trees under some sort of stress-induced factor that is limiting their growth and the stand boundary is either stable or possibly retreating? My research will take place in a non-grazed forest-meadow ecotone west of Helena, and will be focused on answering these questions which will then hopefully give a better understanding on how these ecotones can help us understand the future of our forests and the effects the change in climate could have on them.