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Using dendrochronology to reconstruct disturbance and forest dynamics around Lake Duparquet, northwestern Quebec

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This paper presents a synthesis of the dendroecological work conducted in the area of Lake Duparquet in the southern boreal forest of northwestern Quebec (Canada) during the last 15 years. The topics of these syn- and autecological studies encompassed forest dynamics and tree growth related to natural disturbances such as forest fires, insect outbreaks, and flooding, as well as the effects of climate change. Seven major fire events occurred around Lake Duparquet since 1720: 1760, 1797, 1823, 1847, 1870, 1916, and 1944. Post-fire stand dynamics, established by a chronosequence of over 200 years, are characterized by the gradual transition from broadleaf dominated stands towards mixed and finally almost pure conifer stands. After fire, insect outbreaks are the second most important disturbance type in the southern boreal forest. Spruce budworm, the predominating defoliating insect, but also forest tent caterpillar and larch sawfly have major impacts on growth and stand dynamics of their respective host species. Global warming since the end of Little Ice Age around 1850 coincided with increasing precipitation and, hence, decreasing droughts in the southeastern boreal area of North America. The accelerated radial growth of eastern white-cedar and black ash at Lake Duparquet is a direct effect of these wetter climatic conditions. Population dynamics and forest composition, however, are rather indirectly affected by climate change through the alteration of the natural disturbance regimes, i. e., the decreased frequency and size of the forest fires and the increased frequency and amplitude of the spring floods. Potential consequences of future global warming on disturbance dynamics and forest composition are briefly discussed. The results of the dendroecological studies contributed to the elaboration of a natural-disturbance based forest management model for the southern boreal forest of Quebec.

Keywords: Boreal forest; climate change; dendroecology; forest dynamics; forest fire; forest management; insect outbreak; natural disturbance; ring width

Document Type: Miscellaneous


Publication date: August 1, 2002


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