Changes in the community structure of urban and rural forest patches in Baltimore from 1998 to 2015

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Urban forests are often highly fragmented with many exotic species. Altered disturbance regimes and environmental pollutants influence urban forest vegetation. One of the best ways to understand the impacts of land-use on forest composition is through long-term research. In 1998, the Baltimore Ecosystem Study established eight forest plots to investigate the impacts of urbanization on natural ecosystems. Four plots were located in urban forest patches and four were located in rural forests. In 2015, I revisited these plots to measure abundances and quantify change in forest composition, diversity, and structure. Sapling, shrub, and seedling abundance were reduced in the rural plots. Alpha diversity and turnover was lower in the rural plots. Beta diversity was reduced in the rural plots. The structure of the urban plots was mostly unchanged, except for a highly reduced sapling layer. Beta diversity in the urban plots was consistent across surveys due to high species turnover.