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Long-term patterns in the decay, collapse, and abundance of trees with hollows in the mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans) forests of Victoria, southeastern Australia

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Abstract:

Large trees with hollows are an important component of stand structural complexity worldwide. Understanding their population dynamics is needed to manage cavity-dependent biota. We quantified long-term rates of collapse of 302 measured trees with hollows in 1939-aged regrowth mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans F.Muell.) forest in southeastern Australia. We identified time-dependent dynamics in which the collapse rates of trees slowed from ~4% annually between 1983 and 1993 to ~2.2% between 1993 and 2007. Transitions of trees between different decay states (forms) also slowed over time. Nevertheless, during the 24-year period of our study, over half of our marked and measured trees had fallen, but there was no recruitment of new trees with hollows. Under current projections, few trees with hollows will occur on our field sites by ~2050, although more had been forecast in earlier investigations. Such a paucity of trees with hollows in extensive areas of regrowth mountain ash forests will lead to a shortage of nesting and sheltering sites for cavity-dependent biota. We suggest a short–medium (10- to 100-year) focus on the conservation of old growth and multi-aged stands will be needed to maintain populations of those species strongly associated with trees with hollows in mountain ash forests.

Les gros arbres creux sont une composante importante de la complexité structurale des peuplements partout dans le monde. Il est nécessaire de comprendre la dynamique de leur population pour gérer le biote qui dépend des cavités. Nous avons quantifié le taux à long terme d’effondrement de 302 arbres creux mesurés dans une forêt de recrû composée d’eucalyptus géants (Eucalyptus regnans F. Muell.). Nous avons identifié une dynamique dépendante du temps selon laquelle le taux d’effondrement des arbres a ralenti, passant de ~4% par année entre 1983 et 1993 à ~2,2% entre 1993 et 2007. Le passage des arbres d’un stade (forme) de décomposition à un autre a également ralenti avec le temps. Malgré tout, durant la période de 24 ans visée par notre étude, plus de la moitié des arbres marqués et mesurés sont tombés, mais il n’y a eu aucun recrutement de nouveaux arbres creux. Selon les projections actuelles, il y aura peu d’arbres creux dans nos sites d’étude vers ~2050 bien que les recherches précédentes en aient prédit un plus grand nombre. Une telle rareté d’arbres creux dans une vaste zone de forêt de recrû composée d’eucalyptus géants entraînera une pénurie de sites pouvant servir d’abris et de lieux de nidification pour le biote qui dépend des cavités. Nous concluons que, pendant une période de 10 à 100 ans, il faudra mettre l’accent sur la conservation des vieux peuplements inéquiennes pour maintenir les populations des espèces étroitement associées aux arbres creux dans les forêts d’eucalyptus géant.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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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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