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Patterns of Forest Damage Resulting from Catastrophic Wind in Central New England, USA

David R. Foster and Emery R. Boose
Journal of Ecology
Vol. 80, No. 1 (Mar., 1992), pp. 79-98
DOI: 10.2307/2261065
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2261065
Page Count: 20
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Patterns of Forest Damage Resulting from Catastrophic Wind in Central New England, USA
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Abstract

1. The effect of catastrophic winds on a forested landscape in central Massachusetts was examined to investigate the factors controlling the geographic pattern of damage. The study area, Tom Swamp Tract, Harvard Forest, comprises a valley and adjoining hillslopes supporting second-growth hardwood and conifer stands. Much of the study used records and maps that were analysed cartographically with a geographic information system (GIS). 2. Areally, forest damage was distributed fairly evenly among different damage classes ranging from no damage to more than 75% of stems broken or uprooted. However, there was a negative exponential size distribution of contiguous areas of the same damage intensity, with a preponderance less than 2 ha; These areas ranged from less than 0.04 ha to more than 35 ha; hurricane damage exhibited a continuum ranging from minor damage of individual trees to extensive blow-down of broad areas of forest. 3. The spatial pattern of wind damage was controlled by vegetation height and composition and by site exposure, which is predominantly determined by slope orientation and angle. Approximately 3% of the stands in the study site occupied protected sites, 31% intermediate sites, and 66% exposed sites. 4. Forest type susceptibility followed the ranking: Pinus strobus > conifer plantations > Pinus strobus-hardwood = Tsuga canadensis-hardwood-Pinus strobus > hardwood-Pinus strobus > hardwood. Damage increased with increasing site exposure to wind and increased approximately linearly with stand height. 5. An empirical GIS model of landscape-level response to wind was constructed based on other stands in the same township (not including the Tom Swamp Tract). Hurricane damage in these stands was analysed as a function of site factors (exposure) and vegetational factors (height and composition). Model predictions for the study area agreed well with observed effects, suggesting that a relatively small number of variables can be used to explain the damage in this topographically simple area. Significant variation in the predicted damage under different vegetational scenarios suggests that the landscape-level response to catastrophic wind may be highly sensitive to historical changes in vegetation.

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