Secondary disturbances of low and moderate severity drive the dynamics of eastern Canadian boreal old-growth forests.
Maxence Martin, Hubert Morin, Nicole J. Fenton.
Both low- and moderate-severity secondary disturbances are drivers of eastern Canadian boreal old-growth forests dynamics. Moderate-severity disturbances reflect mainly spruce budworm outbreaks. Low-severity disturbances are produced by both spruce budworm outbreaks and random events such as windthrow. Each level of disturbance severity has a specific impact on stand dynamics, and both shape the diversity of boreal old-growth forests.
A regular succession of low-severity disturbances is seen as determining the dynamics of the old-growth stage (gap dynamics); however, recent studies suggest that moderate-severity secondary disturbances also play an important role in the dynamics of eastern Canadian boreal forests.
This study aims to determine if eastern Canadian boreal old-growth forests are driven by a combination of low- and moderate-severity secondary disturbances.
We reconstructed the 200-year disturbance history of 20 boreal old-growth stands using dendrochronological analysis. We discriminated low- from moderate-severity disturbances based on their respective influence on mean stand growth.
The secondary disturbance regime of eastern Canadian boreal old-growth forests varies highly over time, reflected by disturbance peaks in the chronological record. Most peaks occurred during spruce budworm outbreaks related to both low- and moderate-severity disturbances. Between each peak, low-severity disturbances dominate. Each level of disturbance severity has specific consequences for stand dynamics.
Both low and moderate secondary disturbances are drivers of forest dynamics in eastern Canadian boreal old-growth stands and shape the structural diversity of these stands. The complexity of these dynamics should be recognized in management planning to ensure the efficiency of old-growth forest conservation policies.