Codominance of Acer saccharum and Fagus grandifolia: the role of Fagus root sprouts along a slope gradient in an old-growth forest
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- Takahashi, K., Arii, K. & Lechowicz, M.J. J Plant Res (2010) 123: 665. doi:10.1007/s10265-010-0312-y
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We studied how the unusual capacity of mature Fagus grandifolia to form clumps of clonal stems from root sprouts can contribute to its frequent codominance with Acer saccharum in southern Quebec, Canada. In an old-growth forest, the degree of dominance by the two species shifted along topographic gradients spanning a few hundreds of meters, with Fagus more frequent on lower slopes and Acer on upper slopes. The frequency distribution of Fagus stem diameter had an inverse J distribution at all slope positions, which is indicative of continuous recruitment. Acer stem diameter also had an inverse J pattern, except at lower slope positions where size structure was discontinuous. For stems <2 m tall, Fagus regenerated mainly by sprouts at the upper and mid-slopes, while regeneration from seed was more pronounced on the lower slope. This change of regeneration mode affected the spatial pattern of Fagus stems. Understory trees of Fagus were positively correlated with conspecific canopy trees on upper and mid-slopes, but not on lower slopes where Fagus regenerated mainly by seedlings. Understory trees of Acer were positively correlated with conspecific canopy trees only on the mid-slope. There were many Fagus seedlings around Acer canopy trees at the lower slope, suggesting the potential replacement of Acer canopy trees by Fagus. This study suggests that the regeneration traits of the two species changed with slope position and that Fagus patches originating from root sprouts can contribute to the maintenance of Acer–Fagus codominance at the scale of local landscapes.