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Field Note: Attributes of Windthrown Trees in a Sierra Nevada Mixed-Conifer Forest

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On Nov. 30 to Dec. 1, 2011, an extreme wind event affected the central Sierra Nevada mountain region of California, causing extensive windthrow of trees. The wind event was caused by an extreme pressure gradient from north to south over Nevada and the Sierra that was unusual for the region in its duration, atypical wind direction, and high-intensity wind. Within Devils Postpile National Monument, there were approximately 118.5 windthrown trees km−1. The average diameter at 1.37 m of windthrown trees was 55.36 cm, 2.2 times greater than that for pre-windstorm standing trees. Trees differed in damage type; 86% of trees were uprooted, whereas 14% were snapped, and dead trees were more likely to snap than uproot relative to live trees. Tree species was not a factor in likelihood of windthrow because species composition and relative abundance of windthrown trees were representative of the preexisting forest composition. This wind event is the most extensive on record for California's Sierra Nevada range and may have long-lasting effects on forest composition and function.

Keywords: blowdown; infrequent forest disturbance; wind

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 2013

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Western Journal of Applied Forestry covers the western United States, including Alaska, and western Canada; WJAF will also consider manuscripts reporting research in northern Mexico that has potential application in the southwestern United States.
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