This study measured changes in forest composition that have occurred since the preindustrial era along the toposequence of the Gatineau River Valley, Quebec, Canada (5650 km2
), based on survey records prior to colonization (1804–1864) and recent forest inventories (1982–2006). Changes in forest cover composition over time were found to be specific to toposequence position. Maple and red oak are now more frequent on upper toposequence positions (+26%, +21%, respectively), whereas yellow birch, eastern hemlock, and American beech declined markedly (−34% to −17%). Poplar is more frequent throughout the landscape, but particularly on mid-toposequence positions (+40%). In contrast, white pine, frequent on all toposequence positions in the preindustrial forest, is now confined to shallow and coarse-textured soils (−20%). The preindustrial forest types of the study area were mostly dominated by maple, yellow birch, and beech, with strong components of white pine, hemlock, and eastern white cedar, either as dominant or codominant species. In a context of ongoing anthropogenic disturbances and environmental changes, it is probably not possible to restore many of these types, except where targeted silvicultural interventions could increase the presence of certain species. The new forest types observed should be managed to ensure continuity of vital ecosystem services and functions as disturbance regimes evolve.
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