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Disturbance and Stand Development of a Colorado Subalpine Forest

Thomas T. Veblen, Keith S. Hadley and Marion S. Reid
Journal of Biogeography
Vol. 18, No. 6 (Nov., 1991), pp. 707-716
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/2845552
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2845552
Page Count: 10
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Disturbance and Stand Development of a Colorado Subalpine Forest
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Abstract

Stand development patterns were examined in an Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii [Parry] Engelm.), subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa [Hook.] Nutt), and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta [Dougl.] var. latifolia Engelm.) forest in Rocky Mountain National Park in the northern Colorado Rocky Mountains. Two old-growth stands and one c. 260-year-old post-fire stand were sampled for tree sizes, ages, tree growth patterns, and replacement patterns in windthrow gaps. Growth patterns were analysed both by visual assesment of the frequency of growth releases on increment cores and by dendrochronological techniques. In the 260-year-old post-fire stand, initial colonization was by spruce and lodgepole pine but subalpine fir has become increasingly abundant over the past c. 100 years of stand development. Canopy dominance is gradually shifting from lodgepole pine towards spruce and fir. In the old-growth stands, tree growth patterns indicates that they too were initiated by a stand-devastating fire. However, they have entered a phase of development in which fine-scale windthrows dominate their dynamics. In the old-growth stands, fir is the more common gap occupant but its greater rate of treefall and the greater longevity of spruce imply that the two species will continue to codominate these stands. Substantially different species' responses to fire result in a relatively predictable pattern of post-fire stand development whereas canopy disturbance by wind does not differentially favour or fir.

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