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Forests 2014, 5(7), 1618-1634; doi:10.3390/f5071618

A Quantitative Index of Forest Structural Sustainability

1 Department of Environmental & Forest Biology, College of Environmental Science & Forestry (SUNY-ESF), State University of New York, 1 Forestry Drive Syracuse, NY 13210, USA 2 Department of Forest & Natural Resources Management, SUNY-ESF, 1 Forestry Drive Syracuse 13210, NY, USA 3 Department of Computer Science, Watson School of Engineering, State University of New York at Binghamton, 4400 Vestal Parkway East, Binghamton, NY 13902, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 11 March 2014 / Revised: 5 June 2014 / Accepted: 30 June 2014 / Published: 9 July 2014
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Forest health is a complex concept including many ecosystem functions, interactions and values. We develop a quantitative system applicable to many forest types to assess tree mortality with respect to stable forest structure and composition. We quantify impacts of observed tree mortality on structure by comparison to baseline mortality, and then develop a system that distinguishes between structurally stable and unstable forests. An empirical multivariate index of structural sustainability and a threshold value (70.6) derived from 22 nontropical tree species’ datasets differentiated structurally sustainable from unsustainable diameter distributions. Twelve of 22 species populations were sustainable with a mean score of 33.2 (median = 27.6). Ten species populations were unsustainable with a mean score of 142.6 (median = 130.1). Among them, Fagus grandifolia, Pinus lambertiana, P. ponderosa, and Nothofagus solandri were attributable to known disturbances; whereas the unsustainability of Abies balsamea, Acer rubrum, Calocedrus decurrens, Picea engelmannii, P. rubens, and Prunus serotina populations were not. This approach provides the ecological framework for rational management decisions using routine inventory data to objectively: determine scope and direction of change in structure and composition, assess excessive or insufficient mortality, compare disturbance impacts in time and space, and prioritize management needs and allocation of scarce resources.
Keywords: baseline mortality; climate change; forest health; invasive species baseline mortality; climate change; forest health; invasive species
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Cale, J.A.; Teale, S.A.; West, J.L.; Zhang, L.I.; Castello, D.R.; Devlin, P.; Castello, J.D. A Quantitative Index of Forest Structural Sustainability. Forests 2014, 5, 1618-1634.

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