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The temporal development of old-growth structural attributes in second-growth stands: a chronosequence study in the Coastal Western Hemlock zone in British Columbia

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One of the key issues facing forest resource planners is the conservation and recruitment of old-growth characteristics in managed forests. The paucity of long-term data sets in many regions has limited our ability to project the temporal patterns of structural development in second-growth forests. Age-based thresholds have been employed in some jurisdictions, but these lack flexibility and are arbitrary in nature. Here we conduct a chronosequence study consisting of second-growth and old-growth stands in the coastal forests of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, to identify structural attributes that are suitable for quantifying and monitoring the progressive development of old-growth characteristics. The following structural attributes were identified and evaluated in the chronosequence analysis: volume and density of large live stems, standard deviation of stem DBH, density of large-diameter snags, volume of woody debris, and understory vegetation cover. The rate at which old-growth structural characteristics developed in second-growth stands varied considerably, with the earliest reaching levels observed in old-growth stands within 112 years, while most requiring 200 to greater than 250 years. The use of quantifiable measures of old-growth structure will help forest managers plan for the continued protection and recruitment of old-growth structure within managed forest landscapes.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Forestry Faculty, University of British Columbia, 3041–2424 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada. 2: British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Coast Region, 4300 North Road, Victoria, BC V8Z 5J3, Canada.

Publication date: July 5, 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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