The importance of large-diameter trees to forest structural heterogeneity

James A. Lutz, Andrew J. Larson, James A. Freund, Mark E. Swanson, Kenneth J. Bible

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Large-diameter trees dominate the structure, dynamics and function of many temperate and tropical forests. However, their attendant contributions to forest heterogeneity are rarely addressed. We established the Wind River Forest Dynamics Plot, a 25.6 ha permanent plot within which we tagged and mapped all 30,973 woody stems ≥1 cm dbh, all 1,966 snags ≥10 cm dbh, and all shrub patches ≥2 m2. Basal area of the 26 woody species was 62.18 m 2/ha, of which 61.60 m2/ha was trees and 0.58 m 2/ha was tall shrubs. Large-diameter trees (≥100 cm dbh) comprised 1.5% of stems, 31.8% of basal area, and 17.6% of the heterogeneity of basal area, with basal area dominated by Tsuga heterophylla and Pseudotsuga menziesii. Small-diameter subpopulations of Pseudotsuga menziesii, Tsuga heterophylla and Thuja plicata, as well as all tree species combined, exhibited significant aggregation relative to the null model of complete spatial randomness (CSR) up to 9 m (P≤0.001). Patterns of large-diameter trees were either not different from CSR ( Tsuga heterophylla), or exhibited slight aggregation (Pseudotsuga menziesii and Thuja plicata). Significant spatial repulsion between large-diameter and small-diameter Tsuga heterophylla suggests that large-diameter Tsuga heterophylla function as organizers of tree demography over decadal timescales through competitive interactions. Comparison among two forest dynamics plots suggests that forest structural diversity responds to intermediate-scale environmental heterogeneity and disturbances, similar to hypotheses about patterns of species richness, and richness- ecosystem function. Large mapped plots with detailed within-plot environmental spatial covariates will be required to test these hypotheses. Copyright:

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere82784
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Volume8
    Issue number12
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Dec 20 2013

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