A shift in the gap dynamics of Betula alleghaniensis in response to single-tree selection

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We investigated yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis Britt.) growth patterns and disturbance frequency before and after the advent of selection harvesting at the Ford Forestry Center in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, USA, through the use of tree-ring analysis. Based on the boundary-line release detection procedure, 88% of the trees in our sample (n = 67) displayed evidence of at least one moderate or major release. Prior to active forest management, releases were infrequent, and trees that originated during that period had growth histories consistent with establishment after large-scale disturbances (i.e., large canopy gaps, > 200 m2). Conversely, tree cohorts that recruited to the canopy more recently displayed a growth pattern suggestive of periodic small gap expansion. Given the declining representation of yellow birch in these forests, the latter strategy, although probably sufficient to prevent extirpation, is unlikely to ensure a sustainable and harvestable population of this and other midtolerants in managed uneven-aged forests. Our results highlight the importance of considering the cumulative influence of infrequent disturbances and chance events on the maintenance of tree species diversity. © 2007 NRC.

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Canadian Journal of Forest Research