By Steven L. Stephenson
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Extra info for A Natural History of the Central Appalachians
Portions of the continent became much drier, thus creating what were essentially ecological barriers. Presumably the large herbivores were unable to adapt and thus eventually became extinct. By contrast, the mass extinctions did not extend to small and medium-sized mammals, including mice, rats, squirrels, and weasels. Because these small to medium-sized mammals require much smaller areas of suitable habitat to survive, they would have had an advantage over their larger counterparts. But this is probably only part of the explanation.
The dense shade cast by such a canopy often means that lower layers of vegetation show little diversity: the understory tree and sapling layers sometimes consists of only a few scattered individuals. The seedling layer is In forests dominated by broadleaf trees, the canopy layer is more open, with more light reaching the forest floor. As a result, the sapling, shrub, and herbaceous layers are usually much better developed than in a conifer-dominated forest. The plants making up the three layers are often abundant, in terms of both the number of individuals and the number of species present.
There can be ecological consequences of the co-occurrence of these two layers. , certain ferns) can have a major negative impact upon the growth and survival of seedlings. Many of the herbaceous flowering plants found in a Central Appalachian forest produce their flowers in spring, usually before the leaves are fully developed on the trees making up the overstory and understory. These plants, often referred to as “spring wildflowers,” are most apparent on moist sites, where their flowers can literally carpet the forest floor.
A Natural History of the Central Appalachians by Steven L. Stephenson