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Effects of an experimental ice storm on forest canopy structure

Formally Refereed
Authors: Robert T. Fahey, Jeff W. Atkins, John L. Campbell, Lindsey E. Rustad, Meghan Duffy, Charles T. Driscoll, Timothy J. Fahey, Paul G. Schaberg
Year: 2020
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Northern Research Station
Source: Canadian Journal of Forest Research


Intermediate disturbances are an important component of many forest disturbance regimes, with effects on canopy structure and related functions that are highly dependent on the nature and intensity of the perturbation. Ice storms are an important disturbance mechanism in temperate forests that often result in moderate-severity, diffuse canopy damage. However, it has not previously been possible to distinguish the specific effect of ice storm intensity (as ice accretion) from predisturbance stand characteristics and physiographic factors. In this study, we utilized a novel experimental ice storm treatment to evaluate the effects of variable ice accretion levels on forest canopy structure. Our results verified significant impacts of ice storm disturbance on near-term canopy structural reorganization. Canopy openness, light transmission, and complexity increased significantly relative to predisturbance baselines and undisturbed controls. We documented variable impacts with disturbance intensity, as significant canopy changes largely occurred with ice accretion levels of ≥12.7 mm. Repeated ice storm disturbance (two consecutive years) had marginal, rather than compounding, effects on forest canopy structure. Our findings are relevant to understanding how ice storms can affect near-term forest canopy structural reorganization and ecosystem processes and add to a growing base of knowledge on the effects of intermediate disturbances on canopy structure.


intermediate disturbance, canopy structure, complexity, ecosystem function


Fahey, Robert T.; Atkins, Jeff W.; Campbell, John L.; Rustad, Lindsey E.; Duffy, Meghan; Driscoll, Charles T.; Fahey, Timothy J.; Schaberg, Paul G. 2020. Effects of an experimental ice storm on forest canopy structure. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 50(2): 136-145.