, Volume 212, Issue 8, pp 1313-1325
Date: 01 Mar 2011

The spatio-temporal pattern of historical disturbances of an evergreen broadleaved forest in East China: a dendroecological analysis

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Abstract

Evergreen broadleaved forests (EBLF), the zonal forest ecosystem of the subtropical zone in east China, have been degraded from recent anthropogenic disturbance. Understanding the role of past disturbances in EBLFs would be helpful to the restoration of degraded EBLFs. We used dendroecological techniques to reconstruct the disturbance history of a secondary EBLF dominated by Schima superba and Castanopsis carlesii in Tiantong National Forest Park (29°48′N, 121°47′E), Zhejiang Province, East China. The disturbances were inferred from tree-ring growth release and long-term establishment patterns obtained from 91 overstory trees. The initial growth rates of these trees were compared to trees originating in the understory to evaluate the intensity of past disturbances. The spatial distribution patterns of disturbances were portrayed with tree mapping. The results revealed that there were five disturbances, averaging one disturbance per decade over the past half century. The first disturbance event was probably most intense given that most canopy trees established at that time and displayed high initial growth rates. The timing of the second disturbance event coincided with the documented selective logging. The last three disturbances, having lower tree growth responses and a clumped spatial distribution of gap creation, were probably the result of recurring typhoons. The first two disturbances led to tree regeneration and secondary succession, represented mainly by long-lived deciduous trees in the forest. The subsequent disturbances facilitated the stand development process, creating a complex three-dimensional structure from a pre-existing single-age cohort. This study suggests that EBLFs affected by large disturbances can recover in a few decades and the frequent gap disturbances probably facilitate its process in the early successional stages.