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Characteristics of Old-Growth and Secondary Forests in Relation to Age and Typhoon Disturbance
- Lin, Shin-Yu, Shaner, Pei-Jen Lee, Lin, Teng-Chiu
- Ecosystems 2018 v.21 no.8 pp. 1521-1532
- canopy gaps, climate, forest ecosystems, mortality, old-growth forests, secondary forests, species diversity, topography, tree mortality, trees, typhoons, wood density, Taiwan
- Many properties of forest ecosystems, such as species composition and forest structure, naturally vary with forest age. However, in regions prone to cyclone disturbances, both forest age and cyclone severities can play a role shaping these properties. To evaluate potential effects of an altered cyclone regime on forest ecosystems, it is necessary to disentangle the roles of cyclones and forest age on different forest characteristics. In this study, we compared species composition and forest structure at plot level across sites with similar climate and topographic backgrounds, yet differing in age and typhoon severities in northeastern Taiwan. We found shorter tree stature, higher wood density, higher tree species diversity, and lower typhoon-induced tree mortality in the sites with more severe typhoon disturbances. On the other hand, regardless of typhoon severity, the sites of younger ages had a considerably smaller amount of woody debris, suggesting that it takes time for the accumulation of woody debris. More typhoon-induced canopy gaps at sites with more severe typhoon influences highlights a role of typhoons in canopy dynamics. However, the lack of gaps prior to typhoon disturbances in the less severely affected forest is likely related to the low background mortality associated with the relative young age of the forest. Our results indicate that frequent or severe typhoon disturbances can homogenize some of the structural differences among forests of different ages. If the frequency or severity of cyclones increase in the future, many forests, including old-growth forests, may gradually lose large trees.