Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Seven decades of change in forest structure and composition in Pinus resinosa forests in northern Minnesota, USA: Comparing managed and unmanaged conditions

Formally Refereed
Authors: Brian D. Young, Anthony W. D'Amato, Christel C. Kern, Douglas N. Kastendick, Brian J. Palik
Year: 2017
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Northern Research Station
Source: Forest Ecology and Management


An understanding of long-term patterns of forest structural and compositional development is critical for anticipating management outcomes and developing appropriate silvicultural strategies for restoring complex forest conditions. In most cases, this information comes from stand-level assessments; however, the impacts and outcomes of management and other disturbances on forest development occur over multiple spatial scales across a landscape. We compared historical (1941) and contemporary (2012–2014) forest structure and composition on 301 plots distributed across managed and unmanaged, late seral red pine (Pinus resinosa)-dominated forests in a 1230 ha landscape in north-central Minnesota, USA. Discriminate factor analysis was used to determine which compositional and structural attributes best described the forest conditions between two sampling periods (1941, 2012–2014) and management histories (managed and unmanaged). Plot basal area, average diameter of live trees, richness of tree size classes, and the basal area of standing deadwood were the four most important variables in discriminating between the managed and unmanaged plots in 1941 and 2013. In some cases, structural conditions between managed and unmanaged plots converged, including contemporary BA, trees per hectare, size inequality, and structural complexity indices. In contrast, several attributes, including standing deadwood basal area and percent hardwood basal area, were significantly greater in unmanaged plots after 72 years and highlight the lasting influence of land use on these structural and compositional conditions. The broad ranges of structural and compositional conditions observed across the landscape highlight the importance of having spatially varying desired future conditions across managed stands to approximate this range in live and dead-tree attributes in unmanaged forests. In addition, the lower basal area of standing dead trees documented in this and other comparisons of unmanaged and managed P. resinosa systems argues for an increased emphasis on deliberate deadwood and live-tree retention to recruit these features if the restoration of late-successional forest conditions is included as a management objective.


Forest structure, Pinus resinosa, Tree species diversity, Spatial diversity, Forest structure, Permanent sample plots


Young, Brian D.; D'Amato, Anthony W.; Kern, Christel C.; Kastendick, Douglas N.; Palik, Brian J. 2017. Seven decades of change in forest structure and composition in Pinus resinosa forests in northern Minnesota, USA: Comparing managed and unmanaged conditions. Forest Ecology and Management. 395: 92-103.