Thirty Years of Succession in Lake Michigan Coastal Dune Ecosystems
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The sand dunes of Lake Michigan are a hallmark example of the process of ecological succession and the response of ecosystems to disturbance. These sand dunes are home to several species which exist nowhere else in the world. The study of these dune ecosystems not only adds evidence to successional theory, but it garners knowledge about the complexity of these systems that may useful in directing conservation efforts to preserve the biodiversity found there. This study follows up demography and environmental data plots established from 1988-1991 in the Indiana Dunes and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshores, established by A.K. McEachern as part of her 1992 dissertation. While her dissertation focused on Cirsium pitcheri (Pitcher’s thistle) which remains as a federally threatened species today, the data gathered here serves to quantify changes that have occurred in successional stages over the last three decades. Changes in community composition occurred in the study sites consistent with successional theory. Understanding the way succession impacts biodiversity in the dunes is an extremely important factor to be considered in land management and conservation in the National Parks.