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Tree-ring evidence for a combined influence of defoliators and extreme climatic events in the dynamics of a high-altitude balsam fir forest, Mount Mégantic, southern Quebec

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Abstract:

Most mature balsam fir trees (Abies balsamea (L.) Mill.) growing at the top of Mount Mégantic (Quebec) exhibit multiple leaders in the upper crown section, an indication of stressful conditions for tree development in this high-altitude stand. We report here on a detailed dendroecological analysis of windthrown trees showing that multiple stem development was linked to spruce budworm activity during the 1970s. In spite of severe defoliation, damaged trees temporarily restored their vegetative structure by forming reiterated axes. About 9% of all leaders sampled died during a 3-year period (1996-1998), which represents 60% of dead leaders sampled, with tree morbidity and mortality also peaking in 1996. Tree-ring dating of growth anomalies indicated the impact of major snow and (or) ice storms during the 1996 and 1998 winters, two events validated by field observations from the Mount Mégantic conservation area authorities. Biotic (defoliators) and extreme climatic events have a combined influence in the dynamics of high-altitude balsam fir forests.

Au sommet du mont Mégantic (Québec), la majorité des sapins baumiers (Abies balsamea (L.) Mill.) matures portent des tiges multiples dans la partie supérieure de la couronne, ce qui traduit des conditions difficiles pour le développement des arbres dans cette sapinière de haute altitude. Une analyse dendroécologique détaillée d'arbres renversés au sol montre que la formation de ces tiges multiples découle de l'activité de la tordeuse des bourgeons de l'épinette durant les années 1970. Malgré la défoliation sévère, les arbres ont formé des axes de remplacement. Environ 9 % des réitérats échantillonnés sont morts au cours d'une période de 3 ans (1996 à 1998), ce qui représente 60 % des axes morts échantillonnés. La morbidité et la mortalité d'arbres ont culminé en 1996. Les cernes annuels incomplets de même que la mortalité des reprises apicales témoignent de l'impact de deux tempêtes de neige et de verglas, survenues durant les hivers 1996 et 1998, deux événements validés par des observations sur le terrain effectuées par les autorités du parc du Mont Mégantic. Les facteurs biotiques (défoliation) et certains événements climatiques extrêmes peuvent avoir une action conjuguée dans la dynamique des sapinières de haute altitude.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2004

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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