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Gap dynamics in aspen stands of the Clay Belt of northwestern Quebec following a forest tent caterpillar outbreak

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Forest tent caterpillar (FTC; Malacosoma disstria Hübner) outbreaks represent an important natural disturbance in broadleaf-dominated stands; however, their effects on forest gap dynamics are not well understood. To describe such effects on canopy gaps and tree recruitment patterns, we investigated 20 trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) dominated stands defoliated severely over 0 to 3 years during the last outbreak (1998–2003) in the northwestern Clay Belt of Quebec. Results show that canopy opening more than tripled (12.3%–43.7%) from 0 to 3 years of severe defoliation, and mean gap size was more than 12 times greater (7.2–87.5 m2) over the same gradient. Regeneration patterns suggest that aspen recruitment is not sufficient to completely restore closed canopies in stands defoliated 0, 1, and 2 years, whereas it should be sufficient in stands defoliated 3 years, where large gaps allow trembling aspen establishment. Our results clearly indicate that FTC outbreaks represent an important factor of gap formation in trembling aspen stands. At the stand level, gaps create uneven stand structures, and at the landscape level, FTC defoliation duration creates a large range of even to uneven stand structures.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: NSERC/UQAT/UQAM Industrial Chair in Sustainable Forest Management, Université du Québec en Abitibi–Témiscamingue, 445, boulevard de l’Université, Rouyn-Noranda, QC J9X 5E4, Canada. 2: Université du Québec en Outaouais, Département des sciences sociales (Secteur sciences de la nature/sciences forestières), 58, rue Principale, Ripon, J0V 1V0, Canada.

Publication date: August 28, 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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