Skip to Main Content
Natural disturbance and stand structure of old-growth northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis) forests, northern Maine, USAAuthor(s): Shawn Fraver; Laura S. Kenefic; Andrew R. Cutko; Alan S. White
Source: Forest Ecology and Management
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Northern Research Station
View PDF (907.0 KB)
DescriptionNatural disturbance histories and stand structures derived from old-growth forests are increasingly used to guide forest management prescriptions. Although such information is readily available for a number of forest types, it is lacking for others, such as northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis) forests, despite this forest type's wide distribution, ecological value, and economic importance in northeastern North America. We applied standard dendrochronological methods to six old-growth northern white-cedar stands within the Big Reed Forest Reserve of northern Maine, USA, to reconstruct the frequency and severity of past natural disturbances. The prevalence of internal decay (well-known for this species) precluded the construction of robust age-class distributions. Overall, 63% of cedar trees contained internal decay, and the probability of rot increased with increasing diameter. Evidence from growth releases reveals sporadic pulses of low- to moderate-severity canopy disturbances. The mean disturbance rate was 6.4% of canopy area disturbed per decade, and pulses rarely exceeded 25% per decade. Based on the subset of complete cores (i.e., those without internal decay), 44% of current canopy trees showed one growth release before achieving canopy status, 26% showed two releases, and 7% showed three releases. Of the 23% that showed no release, most showed persistent slow growth that eventually placed them in the canopy. However, an apparent hiatus in cedar recruitment in recent decades (albeit based on a subset of complete cores), as well as low cedar abundance in the sapling layer, suggest that cedar may not maintain dominance in the future overstory. Current structure in these stands is similar to that reported from other oldgrowth conifer forests in the region: mean living tree basal area was 44.3m2 ha−1, density of large (> 40 cm dbh) living trees was 130 trees ha−1, and coarse woody debris volume was 183m3 ha−1. Taken together, these findings suggest that multi-aged silvicultural treatments incorporating periodic harvests of low to moderate intensity, retention trees or patches, and protection of coarse woody debris would be appropriate for sustaining or restoring lowland northern white-cedar forests.
- Check the Northern Research Station web site to request a printed copy of this publication.
- Our on-line publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat.
- During the capture process some typographical errors may occur.
- Please contact Sharon Hobrla, firstname.lastname@example.org if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
- We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
- This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
CitationFraver, Shawn; Kenefic, Laura S.; Cutko, Andrew R.; White, Alan S. 2020. Natural disturbance and stand structure of old-growth northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis) forests, northern Maine, USA. Forest Ecology and Management. 456: 117680. 8 p. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2019.117680.
KeywordsDendrochronology, Gap dynamics, Growth releases, Primary forest, Stand dynamics, Thuja occidentalis
- Silvicultural guide for northern white-cedar (eastern white cedar)
- Northern white-cedar ecology and silviculture in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada: a synthesis of knowledge
- Northern white-cedar regeneration dynamics on the Penobscot Experimental Forest in Maine: 40-year results
XML: View XML