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Forests 2013, 4(3), 537-552;

Canopy Structural Changes Following Widespread Mortality of Canopy Dominant Trees

Department of Earth and the Environment, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA
Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Science, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA
Department of Biology and Environmental Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23284, USA
Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 24 May 2013 / Revised: 28 June 2013 / Accepted: 2 July 2013 / Published: 8 July 2013
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Canopy structure affects forest function by determining light availability and distribution. Many forests throughout the upper Great Lakes region are dominated by mature, even-aged, early successional aspen and birch, which comprise 35%–40% of canopy leaf area, and which are senescing at accelerating rates. In 2008 at the University of Michigan Biological Station, we initiated the Forest Accelerated Succession ExperimenT (FASET) by stem girdling all aspen and birch in replicated stands to induce mortality. Our objective was to understand type and rate of canopy structural changes imposed by rapid but diffuse disturbance consisting of mortality of a single age-species cohort. We characterized changes in canopy structural features in 2008–2011 using ground-based Portable Canopy Lidar (PCL) in paired treated and control stands. As aspen and birch in treated plots died, gap fraction of the upper canopy increased, average leaf height decreased, total canopy height declined, and openness of the whole-canopy increased. All of these trends became more pronounced with time. Our findings suggest that as forests throughout the region pass through the impending successional transition prompted by widespread mortality of canopy-dominant early successional aspen and birch species, the canopy will undergo significant structural reorganization with consequences for forest carbon assimilation. View Full-Text
Keywords: canopy structure; disturbance; rugosity; lidar; light availability canopy structure; disturbance; rugosity; lidar; light availability

Figure 1

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Hardiman, B.S.; Bohrer, G.; Gough, C.M.; Curtis, P.S. Canopy Structural Changes Following Widespread Mortality of Canopy Dominant Trees. Forests 2013, 4, 537-552.

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