Spatial and Temporal Disturbance Characteristics of Oak-Dominated Old-Growth Stands in the Central Hardwood Forest Region

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Abstract:



Using a radial growth averaging technique, decadal-scale growth changes of 150- to 350-yr-old overstory oaks were used to identify canopy disturbance events in five old-growth stands, and canopy disturbance intervals were estimated using frequency analysis. Stem maps and tree-establishment and canopy-accession chronologies were then used to reconstruct the size of canopy openings. Between 1700 and 1990, median canopy disturbance interval was approximately 3 yr for each stand; larger disturbances involving two or more trees occurred about every 16 yr per stand. Based on age distribution of the oldest cohorts, three stands became established after a major disturbance, but the majority of multiple-tree disturbances were associated with gaps < 200 m2 in area. Historic disturbance frequency and size distribution of canopy gaps suggest that the oak components of these stands persisted by utilizing a variety of growth strategies appropriate to large and small openings. The absence of significant changes in overstory disturbance frequencies further suggests that increases in the level of understory competition are responsible for the present-day decline in oak dominance. FOR. SCI. 49(5):778–789.

Keywords: Canopy disturbance; disturbance regime; environmental management; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; natural resource management; natural resources; radial growth averaging; stand development

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: 1: Research Assistant Professor Division of Forestry, West Virginia University, P.O. Box 6125 Morgantown, WV, 26506, Phone: 304-293-2941, Ext. 2480; Fax: 304-293-2441 jrentch2@wvu.edu 2: Associate Professor of Forestry Division of Forestry, West Virginia University, P.O. Box 6125 Morgantown, WV, 26506, Phone: 304-293-2941, Ext. 2433 mfajvan@wvu.edu 3: Professor of Forestry Division of Forestry, West Virginia University, P.O. Box 6125 Morgantown, WV, 26506, Phone: 304-293-2941 Ext. 2432 rhicks3@wvu.edu

Publication date: October 1, 2003

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