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Forest transformation resulting from an exotic pathogen: regeneration and tanoak mortality in coast redwood stands affected by sudden oak death

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Sudden oak death is dramatically altering forests throughout coastal California, but little is known about the communities that are assembling in affected areas. This emerging disease, caused by the exotic pathogen Phytophthora ramorum (S. Werres, A.W.A.M. de Cock), has had especially severe effects on tanoak (Notholithocarpus densiflorus (Hook. & Arn.) Manos, Cannon & S.H. Oh), a broadleaf evergreen that is abundant in forests dominated by coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens (D.Don) Endl.). Tanoak, a valuable food source to numerous wildlife species, is unlikely to successfully regenerate in diseased areas, and thus, affected redwood forests are transitioning to a novel state. In this study, to predict which species might replace tanoak, we investigated regeneration patterns in heavily impacted stands in Marin County, California. Our main findings were as follows: (i) despite reductions in canopy cover, there is no evidence that any species other than tanoak has exhibited a regenerative response to tanoak mortality, (ii) the regeneration stratum was dominated by redwood and tanoak (other tree species were patchy and (or) scarce), and (iii) some severely affected areas lacked sufficient regeneration to fully re-occupy available growing space. Our results indicate that redwood is likely to initially re-occupy the majority of the ground relinquished by tanoak, but also provide evidence that longer-term trajectories are unresolved, and may be highly responsive to management interventions.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/x11-020

Publication date: April 8, 2011

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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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