Recruitment limitation in forests: Lessons from an unprecedented mountain pine beetle epidemic

Publication Type:Journal Article
Authors:R. Astrup, K. Coates, D., Hall, E.
Journal:Forest Ecology and Management
Date Published:November 10
Type of Article:Article
:Dendroctonus ponderosae

Since the mid-1990s the forests of central British Columbia have undergone an unprecedented Mountain Pine Beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins) (MPB) epidemic that has resulted in extensive mortality of canopy lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia Engelm.). This study investigated how seed-source availability, seedbed substrate, overstory structure, and time since MPB attack interact to affect post-MPB seedling recruitment of the dominant tree species of these forests. In addition to post-MPB recruitment, these forests may be regenerated by trees established in the understory prior to MPB disturbance. Accordingly, we examined abundance and patterns of all regeneration less than 130 cm tall. We found post-MPB recruitment was sparse. Subalpine fir (Abies laciocarpa (Hook.) Nutt.) comprised the majority of the post-MPB recruitment. It increased with local parent tree basal area and increased strongly with proximity to a major seed source. This resulted in a patchy distribution for subalpine fir post-MPB regeneration. Lodgepole pine post-MPB recruitment was limited by overstory shading. Recruitment of pine decreased as the total overstory basal area increased. Interior spruce (Picea glauca x engelmannii) post-MPB recruitment was similarly limited by total overstory basal area. Seedbed substrates were uniform and dominated by moss. Substrate type distribution did not change as time since MPB disturbance increased. The overall low post-MPB recruitment observed was likely due to a lack of disturbance to the moss-dominated forest floor. Moss is known to be a poor substrate in northern forests. The distribution of all regeneration less than 130 cm tall showed the same trends as the post-MPB regeneration. We believe the post-MPB seedling recruitment dynamics of these forests was not substantially changed from conditions prior to MPB disturbance. There was no pulse of regeneration up to 10 years post-MPB disturbance. Unless this changes, future stand structure will be dominated by the seedling bank established prior to the MPB epidemic. Subalpine fir dominated the seedling bank (68%) and post-MPB recruitment (94%). This suggests that MPB-disturbed forests are undergoing a substantial shift in landscape-level species composition. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith