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Open AccessArticle

Unveiling the Diversity of Tree Growth Patterns in Boreal Old-Growth Forests Reveals the Richness of Their Dynamics

1
Département des Sciences fondamentales, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, 555 boul. de l’Université, Chicoutimi, QC G7H 2B1, Canada
2
Centre d’étude de la forêt, Université du Québec à Montréal, P.O. Box 8888, Centre-ville Station, Montréal, QC H3C 3P8, Canada
3
Institut de Recherche sur les Forêts, Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, 445 boul. de l’Université, Rouyn-Noranda, QC J9X 5E4, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2020, 11(3), 252; https://doi.org/10.3390/f11030252
Received: 22 January 2020 / Revised: 20 February 2020 / Accepted: 21 February 2020 / Published: 25 February 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Forest Ecology and Management)
Research Highlights: Radial growth patterns of trees growing in old-growth boreal forests in eastern Canada can be grouped into a small number of simple patterns that are specific to different old-growth forest types or successional stages. Background and Objectives: Identifying the main radial growth trends in old-growth forests could help to develop silvicultural treatments that mimic the complex dynamics of old-growth forests. Therefore, this study aimed to identify the main radial growth patterns and determine how their frequencies change during forest succession in old-growth forests, focusing on boreal landscapes in eastern Canada. Materials and Methods: We used dendrochronological data sampled from 21 old-growth stands in the province of Quebec, Canada. Tree-ring chronologies were simplified into chronologies of equal length to retain only primary growth trends. We used k-means clustering to identify individual growth patterns and the difference in growth-pattern frequency within the studied stands. We then used non-parametric analyses of variance to compare tree or stand characteristics among the clusters. Results: We identified six different growth patterns corresponding to four old-growth forest types, from stands at the canopy breakup stage to true old-growth stands (i.e., when all the pioneer cohort had disappeared). Secondary disturbances of low or moderate severity drove these growth patterns. Overall, the growth patterns were relatively simple and could be generally separated into two main phases (e.g., a phase of limited radial increment size due to juvenile suppression and a phase of increased radial increment size following a growth release). Conclusions: The complexity of old-growth forest dynamics was observed mainly at the stand level, not at the tree level. The growth patterns observed in true old-growth forests were similar to those observed following partial or stem-selection cuts in boreal stands; thus, these silvicultural treatments may be effective in mimicking old-growth dynamics. View Full-Text
Keywords: overmature; succession; dendrochronology; growth release; primary forest; ecosystem-based management; close-to-nature silviculture; machine learning; clustering overmature; succession; dendrochronology; growth release; primary forest; ecosystem-based management; close-to-nature silviculture; machine learning; clustering
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MDPI and ACS Style

Martin, M.; Krause, C.; Fenton, N.J.; Morin, H. Unveiling the Diversity of Tree Growth Patterns in Boreal Old-Growth Forests Reveals the Richness of Their Dynamics. Forests 2020, 11, 252.

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