1 Distribution patterns (frequency and percentage cover) of 18 forest plant
species were studied in 34 ha of mixed deciduous forest (Muizen Forest, no
rth Belgium). Stands varied in age between 6 and more than 223 years and bo
th slow and fast colonizing species were studied.
2 Detailed land use history data were combined with the species distributio
n maps to identify species-specific colonization sources and calculate colo
nization distances. 3
A multiple logistic regression model was constructed with four covariables:
pH (which can impose limits on the potential species-distribution), second
ary forest age, distance from nearest colonization source and age-distance
interaction, to allow us to account for the gradual completion of colonizat
ion over time.
4 We could distinguish species which are limited by both dispersal and recr
uitment (Primula elatior, Arum maculatum and Lamium galeobdolon), mainly by
dispersal (Anemone nemorosa, Deschampsia cespitosa), mainly by recruitment
(Paris quadrifolia and Polygonatum multiflorum) and by neither (Geum urban
um, Ranunculus ficaria, Glechoma hederacea, Aegopodium podagraria, Ajuga re
ptans, Adoxa moschatellina and Oxalis acetosella).
5 The low colonizing capacity of ancient forest plants cannot be attributed
to a single cause; rather both dispersal and recruitment are limiting but
the relative importance varies.