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The Composition and Height of Saplings Capturing Silvicultural Gaps at Two Long-Term Experiments in Managed Northern Hardwood Forests


Samuel P. Knapp
Christopher R. Webster



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Northern Research Station




Managing forests for mixtures of canopy species promotes future resilience and mitigates risks of catastrophic resource loss. This study describes the compositions, heights, and locations within openings of gap-capturing saplings in two long-term group-selection experiments in managed northern hardwoods. We expected opening size to affect the composition of gap-capturing saplings and that composition would match advance regeneration where relatively large stems remained following harvest. We also expected sapling height to respond positively to opening size, but plateau in gap areas above 200 m2, and legacy-tree retention to negatively affect sapling height. In two group-selection experiments, we found that the composition of gap-capturing saplings was not affected by opening size at 15 and 23 years post-harvest, respectively, and that composition matched advance regeneration only when larger stems (>2.5 cm breast height, dbh) were removed during harvest. Gap-capturing sapling composition did not match the surrounding canopy in either study site. Sapling height was positively correlated with gap area, but, as we expected, plateaued in larger openings. In openings without legacy-retention, gap area did not significantly predict sapling height in openings larger than 100–200 m2, whereas this threshold was between 300–400 m2 in openings with single legacy-tree retention. Sapling height was negatively associated with distance into openings when legacy-trees were present. Group selection appears to recruit modestly higher proportions of shade-midtolerant and intolerant species to the canopy compared to adjacent unmanaged second-growth or managed, uneven-aged northern hardwoods.


Knapp, Samuel P.; Webster, Christopher R.; Kern, Christel C. 2019. The Composition and Height of Saplings Capturing Silvicultural Gaps at Two Long-Term Experiments in Managed Northern Hardwood Forests. Forests. 10(10): 855. 23 p.


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