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Structural and Spatial Characteristics of Old-Growth Temperate Deciduous Forests at Their Northern Distribution Limit

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Relic old-growth forests are unique witnesses of long-term forest dynamics that can be used as reference conditions for ecosystem-based forest management. In temperate deciduous forests, catastrophic stand-replacing disturbances are rare, and stand dynamics are controlled by endogenous tree-by-tree replacement. Processes might be different at the northern distribution limit of temperate deciduous forests, because of differences in climate and disturbance regimes. We studied tree species composition, diameter, age, and spatial structures of 11 old-growth temperate deciduous stands across an age gradient. Stand characteristics differed from expectation, based on previous studies that were conducted in the central region of the range of temperate deciduous forests. Instead of increasing with age, tree species richness was higher in stands <120 years old because of the presence of relatively short-lived species such as Abies balsamea and Acer rubrum. All diameter distributions followed a two- or three-parameter Weibull model, instead of a rotated sigmoid. Some age structures showed recruitment pulses, contrary to the expectation of constant recruitment, and the spatial distribution of living trees was mostly random with regard to age and species at assessed distances (<14 m). In the context of ecosystem-based forest management, our results suggest that harvest levels should vary across harvesting blocks and selection silviculture should occasionally include larger, multiple-tree gaps in addition to single-tree gaps.
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Keywords: Acer saccharum; Betula alleghaniensis; age structure; northern limit; size distribution; spatial structure; sugar maple; yellow birch

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2014-10-01

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.

    2016 Impact Factor: 1.782 (Rank 17/64 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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