Demographic analysis of tree colonization in a 20-year-old right-of-way

Environ Manage. 2001 Dec;28(6):777-87. doi: 10.1007/s002670010261.


Past tree colonization dynamics of a powerline-right-of-way (ROW) corridor in the Haut-Saint-Laurent region of Quebec was studied based on the present age distribution of its tree populations. This colonization study spans 20 years, from 1977 (ROW clearance) to 1996. The sampled quadrats were classified into six vegetation types. Tree colonization dynamics were interpreted in each type, and three distinct patterns were identified. (1) Communities adapted to acidic conditions were heavily colonized by Acer rubrum, at least for the last 12 years. (2) Communities adapted to mesic or to hydric conditions were more intensely colonized in the period 1985-1987 than in the following 9 years; this past success in tree colonization may have been caused by herbicide treatments, which could have facilitated tree establishment by damaging the herbaceous and shrub vegetation. (3) Cattail, vine-raspberry, and reed-dominated communities contained few tree individuals, with almost all trees establishing between 1979 and 1990; those three vegetation types appear as the most resistant to tree invasion in the ROW studied. This study supports the need for an integrated approach in ROW vegetation management, in which the selection of vegetation treatment methods would depend on the tree colonization dynamics in each vegetation type. Minimizing disturbances inflicted on ROW herbaceous and shrub covers should be the central strategy because disturbances jeopardize natural resistance to future tree invasion, except in communities adapted to acidic conditions where the existing vegetation does not prevent invasion by A. rubrum. Many trees are surviving the successive cutting operations by producing new sprouts each time, particularly in communities adapted to mesic and hydric conditions. In these cases, mechanical cutting should be replaced by a one-time stump-killing operation, to avoid repeated and unsuccessful treatments of the same individuals over time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Ecosystem
  • Electric Power Supplies
  • Forestry*
  • Herbicides
  • Population Dynamics
  • Trees / growth & development*


  • Herbicides