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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Growth release of trees following fine-scale canopy disturbances in old-growth forests of coastal British Columbia, Canada Stan, Amanda Beth


Growth release of trees following canopy disturbances is of interest to ecological scientists and forest managers. Using dendroecological techniques, I examined growth release of canopy and subcanopy trees following the formation of natural, fine-scale canopy gaps in old-growth, western red cedar-western hemlock forests of coastal British Columbia. I aimed to quantify detailed information on release of the three shade-tolerant tree species that constitute these stands: western red cedar (Thuja plicata), western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), and Pacific silver fir (Abies amabilis). As a first step, I calibrated the radial-growth averaging method to account for regional-scale variability and capture a more complete range of growth releases that may occur following the formation of fine-scale gaps in the study stands. A 25% threshold, 5-year moving average, and 10-year window emerged as appropriate parameters for detecting releases using radial-growth averaging. Basal area increment was also the most appropriate growth index for detecting releases. Establishing these empirically-based criteria was important for quantifying the magnitude and duration of releases. Tree diameter and growth rate prior to release were the most important predictors of the magnitude and duration of releases, but identity of the tree species and distance from the gap center were also important predictors. Western hemlock and Pacific silver fir were often growing slowly both in the canopy and subcanopy, giving them tremendous potential to release. For these species, releases were generally intensive and persistent. In contrast, western red cedar were often growing quickly both in the canopy and subcanopy, giving them less potential to release. Compared to western hemlock and Pacific silver fir, western red cedar releases were less intensive and persistent. Patterns related to distance from the gap center emerged for trees growing along the north-south axis of gaps. Regardless of species, increasing distance from the gap center resulted in decreasing magnitude and duration of releases. However, patterns for duration were complex, as the distance effect was greater for trees north of the gap center. Information on growth release of trees is useful for reconstructing the history of past canopy disturbances, elucidating mechanisms of tree species coexistence, and assessing and predicting stand changes due to forest management in coastal British Columbia.

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