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Tree Diameter Distributions and Replacement Processes in Southeast Texas Forests

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Fifteen forest stands were sampled along a moisture gradient in southeast Texas to examine size class distributions of species. Important tree species (> 10 percent relative basal area) were generally poorly represented as saplings in mesic and wet forests but not in dry forests. A given dominant species tended to show greater reproductive failure (i.e., poorer representation of saplings) in wet than in mesic forests. Understory shrub species were well represented over the range of sapling sizes (1-10 cm) so that whole stand size class distributions showed no underrepresentation of smaller stems. Underrepresentation of saplings of important canopy trees is probably the result of mortality, and possibly also periodic seed set in Fagus grandifolia. Increased mortality of saplings from dry to wet forests is explained in terms of increased competition from both overstory and understory species. The underrepresentation is marked enough to raise questions concerning the long-term stability of these forests. It is postulated that replacement of overstory trees by saplings occurs following disturbance when sapling mortality is relaxed. Multiple-tree canopy gaps may be most important in allowing replacement in southeast Texas forests. Forest Sci. 24:153-166.

Keywords: Tree size class structure; disturbance; tree mortality; tree regeneration

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Section of Ecology and Systematics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853

Publication date: June 1, 1978

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
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