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Stand dynamics and structure of old-growth Fraxinus nigra stands in northern Minnesota, USA

Formally Refereed
Authors: Shawn Fraver, Anthony W. D'Amato, Mike Reinikainen, Kyle G. Gill, Brian J. Palik
Year: 2022
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Northern Research Station
Source: Canadian Journal of Forest Research


Black ash (Fraxinus nigra Marsh.) forests of north-central North America are currently threatened by the non-native emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis, EAB). Despite the wide distribution of F. nigra ecosystems, and the concern over EAB impact, little is known about their structure and natural stand dynamics. We sampled six old-growth F. nigra stands to assess structure, composition, tree recruitment, and past disturbance. Dendrochronological results revealed that disturbance rates fluctuated markedly over the past 200 years or more, but remained relatively low, suggesting small- to moderate-scale disturbances. Recruitment age structures revealed that (i) F. nigra is able to maintain long-term dominance through extended longevity as a canopy tree, and (ii) these systems have fairly continuous recruitment over time, with most sites showing F. nigra recruitment in every decade in the chronology. We speculate that recruitment is coupled with water table fluctuations, in addition to canopy disturbance, as these stands are subject to both frequent flooding and effective soil drought (given the shallow root systems). The low rates of past canopy disturbance and associated gap-phase replacement by F. nigra highlight the potential for dramatic shifts in these systems following emerald ash borer invasion and subsequent canopy tree mortality.


black ash, dendroecology, emerald ash borer, gap dynamics, stand dynamics, moderate-severity disturbance


Fraver, Shawn; D'Amato, Anthony W.; Reinikainen, Mike; Gill, Kyle G.; Palik, Brian J. 2022. Stand dynamics and structure of old-growth Fraxinus nigra stands in northern Minnesota, USA. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 52(6): 910-919.