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Forest Stand Structure and Pattern of Old-Growth Western Hemlock/Douglas-Fir and Mixed-Conifer Forests

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With fire suppression, many western forests are expected to have fewer gaps and higher stem density of shade-tolerant species as light competition becomes a more significant influence on stand pattern and composition. We compared species composition, structure, spatial pattern, and environmental factors such as light and soil moisture between two old-growth forests: Pacific Northwest western hemlock/Douglas-fir at the Wind River Canopy Crane Research Facility exhibiting gap-phase replacement and southern Sierra Nevada mixed conifer at the Teakettle Experimental Forest after 135 years without a fire. We hypothesized that fire suppression at Teakettle would create a current tree composition and distribution more like Wind River where light is an important influence on stand dynamics. Wind River has nearly continuous canopy cover and a high foliage volume that severely reduces understory light and stratifies the canopy composition by shade tolerance. Large trees are regularly spaced from 0 to 15 m and shade-tolerant and intolerant species are “repelled.” In contrast, Teakettle's canopy cover is discontinuous, foliage volume is one-fifth that of Wind River, and understory light is 15 times higher. Trees at Teakettle are significantly clustered in groups containing a mix of shade-tolerant and -intolerant species, separated by large gaps. Although Teakettle's gaps have higher moisture and a thinner litter layer than tree groups, regeneration in gaps is scarce. Fire suppression has increased stem density at Teakettle but it has not filled in gaps, stratified the canopy by shade tolerance, or produced a composition consistent with patterns at Wind River. Teakettle's distinctly clustered stem distribution may result from a minimum canopy cover threshold needed for tree establishment. If high temperatures produced by direct sunlight inhibit stem patterns, traditional stand management that reduces canopy cover to release regeneration should be applied with caution in the southern Sierra Nevada. FOR. SCI. 50(3):299–311.

Document Type: Regular Article

Affiliations: 1: Sierra Nevada Research Center, Department of Environmental Horticulture University of California Davis CA 95616 Phone: (530) 754-7398;, Fax: (530) 752-1819, Email: 2: Landscape Ecology and Ecosystem Science, Bowman-Oddy Lab, MS 604 University of Toledo Toledo OH 43606 Phone: (419) 530-2664, Email: 3: College of Forest Resources University of Washington Box 352100 Seattle WA 98195 Phone: (206) 543-7940, Email: 4: Belle W. Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science Clemson University P.O. Box 596 Georgetown SC 29442 Phone: (843) 545-5673, Email: 5: Department of Renewable Resources University of Alberta Edmonton Alberta Canada T6G 2E3 Phone: (780) 492-6827, Email: 6: Forest Inventory and Monitoring PNW Research Station P.O. Box 3890 Portland OR 97208 Phone: (541) 750-7252, Email: 7: Sierra Nevada Research Center 2121 2nd Avenue, Suite A-101 Davis CA 95616 Phone: (530) 759-1711, Email:

Publication date: 2004-06-01

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.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2015 Impact Factor: 1.702
    Ranking: 16 of 66 in forestry

    Average time from submission to first decision: 62.5 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
    Other SAF Publications
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