Climate and disturbance regime effects on aspen (Populus tremuloides
Michx.) stand structure and composition along an east–west transect
in Canada’s boreal forest.
Pierre Nlungu Kweta Bisewolo, Alain Leduc, Yves Bergeron.
Stand structure and composition play a key role in maintaining the ecological integrity of the boreal forest. However, future changes in climate and disturbance regime could affect these forest attributes. Using provincial forest inventory datasets, we analysed stands dominated by aspen (?75% of the plot total basal area) distributed along a wide longitudinal gradient of environmental conditions across Canada. Stands were classified into three diameter structure types (inverted J, intermediate and advanced). There was no major difference in the distribution pattern of structural types of aspen-dominated stands between the western and eastern Canadian boreal mixedwood forests, despite a marked contrast in climatic conditions and fire regime. These results suggest that the predominance of juvenile structures in the western aspen forests is mainly related to the frequent recurrence of fires, while within eastern aspen forests, the longer fire cycle was not the controlling factor of stand structure. Anthropogenic activities would have strongly shaped the structure of aspen forests in eastern Canada. White spruce in the west and balsam fir in the east are among the main shade-tolerant conifer companion species associated with these stands. Although stand structure and composition were highly related to stand age and site productivity, regional climate and human activities, through their influence on disturbance regime, might have impacted these forest attributes.