Herbaceous response to type and severity of disturbance
The herbaceous layer varies with topographic heterogeneity and harbors the great majority of plant diversity in eastern deciduous forests. We described the interplay between disturbances, both natural and human-caused, and composition, dynamics, and diversity of herbaceous vegetation, especially those in early successional habitats. Management actions that create low to moderate disturbance intensity can promote early successional species and increase diversity and abundance in the herb layer, although sustaining communities such as open areas, savannahs, and woodlands may require intensive management to control invasive species or implement key disturbance types. A mixture of silvicultural practices along a gradient of disturbance intensity will maintain a range of stand structures and herbaceous diversity throughout the central hardwood forest.