Vertical distribution of foliar biomass in western larch (Larix occidentalis)

Geoffrey M. Williams, Andrew S. Nelson, David L.R. Affleck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Western larch (Larix occidentalis Nutt.) is an endemic pioneer species in northwestern North America and unique as a deciduous conifer and the most shade-intolerant, fastest growing, and most fire-resistant species in the northwestern United States. To better understand its production ecology, we used a multilevel modeling approach to analyze the intrinsic dynamics of western larch vertical foliage distribution and compared it with other species. We found that western larch allocates foliage into a more diffuse distribution as the crown lengthens, whereas shade-tolerant evergreens concentrate foliage into a more monolayered distribution higher within the crown as it lengthens. Crown foliar biomass scaled linearly with diameter at breast height, indicating that western larch does not fill volume in the crown with foliage at an increasing rate like other conifers. Our model supports the hypothesis that foliar shade intolerance and water stress jointly influence foliage allocation in this deciduous conifer. These results also highlight intrinsic foliage distribution as a factor potentially contributing to the inability of western larch to survive light-limiting conditions and its preference for mesic sites. The models developed here provide a basic framework that may be built upon to study the morphological response of western larch to modified stand conditions such as disturbance and silvicultural treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-57
Number of pages16
JournalCanadian Journal of Forest Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018


  • Allometry
  • Biomass
  • Foliage distribution
  • Probability density function
  • Western larch


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