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Relationship between canopy disturbance history and current sapling density of Fagus grandifolia and Acer saccharum in a northern hardwood landscape

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To shed light on the currently increasing proportion of Fagus grandifolia Ehrh. saplings in the tolerant hardwood forests of Quebec, we studied 48 Acer saccharum Marsh. dominated stands with contrasting histories of canopy disturbance: old commercial clear-cutting (CC), old fire (F), and either one or two partial cuts (1PC and 2PC). Our results indicated that higher densities of both F. grandifolia and A. saccharum saplings were associated with partial cutting histories (1PC and 2PC) than with severe canopy disturbance (CC and F). The density of F. grandifolia saplings was not related to any soil or stand characteristics in stands with a history of severe canopy disturbance. However, in stands with a history of partial canopy disturbances, the relative density of F. grandifolia saplings as compared with A. saccharum was related to soil C/N ratio and the presence of F. grandifolia overstory trees, whereas the absolute density showed a negative relationship with stand basal area. Therefore, it appears that partial canopy disturbances favored the regeneration of F. grandifolia relative to A. saccharum, whereas severe canopy disturbances may have provided an advantage to A. saccharum. We suggest that the presence of a light threshold can explain this shift in sapling performance between these two species.

Pour tenter d’élucider l’augmentation de la proportion de gaule de Fagus grandifolia Ehrh. observée dans les forêts de feuillus tolérants à l’ombre du Québec, nous avons étudié 48 peuplements dominés par Acer saccharum Marsh. Ces peuplements se distinguent par leur historique de perturbation de la canopée: vieille coupe à blanc commerciale (CC), vieux feu (F) et une ou deux coupes partielles (1CP et 2CP). Nos résultats indiquent que les fortes densités de gaules de F. grandifolia et d’A. saccharum étaient davantage associées à un historique de coupe partielle (1CP et 2CP) qu’à des perturbations plus sévères de la canopée (CC et F). La densité des gaules de F. grandifolia n’était reliée à aucune caractéristique du sol ou du peuplement dans les peuplements ayant un historique de perturbation sévère de la canopée. Cependant, dans les peuplements ayant un historique de coupe partielle, la densité relative des gaules de F. grandifolia par rapport à celles d’A. saccharum était reliée au rapport C/N et à la présence de tiges de F. grandifolia dans l’étage dominant, alors que la densité absolue était négativement reliée à la surface terrière du peuplement. Il semble donc que des perturbations partielles de la canopée favorisent la régénération de F. grandifolia par rapport à celle d’A. saccharum, alors que les perturbations sévères de la canopée procureraient un avantage à A. saccharum. Nous croyons qu’il existe un seuil de luminosité pouvant expliquer les différences de densité des gaules de ces deux espèces.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-02-01

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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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