Buell-Small Succession Study

A long-term ecological experiment designed to document succession on released agricultural fields. The study began in 1958 at the Hutcheson Memorial Forest in New Jersey and continues to the present.

The Buell-Small Succession Study is a long term ecological study designed to document old field succession. The study was founded in 1958 by Murray Buell, Helen Buell, and John Small. It includes ten fields that were actively farmed until released for the study. Each year a team of researchers returns to the fields and measures the percent cover of plant species in permanently marked plots.

By looking at how the species in the plots and their cover change over time, researchers can learn how succession progresses in the fields. Understanding the succession of the BSS fields can help researchers determine how other abandoned fields in similar systems will change over time. Because the BSS data set is extensive in space and continuous in time, it can be used to answer a wide range of additional questions.

BSS old fields are outlined in pink. Other areas of the Hutcheson Memorial Forest that have grown up over time are outlined in blue Blue square.
1962
Hutcheson Memorial Forest in 1962
1974
Hutcheson Memorial Forest in 1974
1980
Hutcheson Memorial Forest in 1980
1995
Hutcheson Memorial Forest in 1995
A first year oldfield dominated by summer and winter annuals, such as species of mustard and foxtail grass (Setaria faberii). Note the large amount of open soil and the irregular plant canopy. In the near background are approximately 20 year old fields and rising behind those is the old growth Hutcheson Memorial Forest.
A field of approximately five years old. The closed canopy is dominated by goldenrod (Solidago) species
A field of approximately 10 years of age dominated by an irregular canopy of goldenrods, daisies (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), asters and goldenrods. Woody invaders include eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) trees. The dark green in the background is in older fields and the old growth forest.
A field of roughly 20 years age with additional invasion of woody species including shrubs such as multiflora rose and gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa). Trees invaders include flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) and the evergreen eastern red cedar. Red maple (Acer rubrum) and oaks (Quercus spp) are in the background. This field is slightly drier than the others pictured in this series and so supports some little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium).
A 28 year old field dominated by a canopy of red maple near the adjacent old growth forest (behind the photographer) grading into a section of the field still dominated by shrubs and perennial field herbs.
1962
1974
1980
1995

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies | Millbrook, New York 12545 | Tel (845) 677-5343

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