Science China Life Sciences

, Volume 58, Issue 5, pp 472–479 | Cite as

How does tree age influence damage and recovery in forests impacted by freezing rain and snow?

  • LiRong Zhu
  • Ting Zhou
  • BaoMing Chen
  • ShaoLin Peng
Open Access
Research Paper


The response and recovery mechanisms of forests to damage from freezing rain and snow events are a key topic in forest research and management. However, the relationship between the degree of damage and tree age, i.e., whether seedlings, young trees, or adult trees are most vulnerable, remains unclear and is rarely reported. We investigated the effect of tree age on the degrees of vegetation damage and subsequent recovery in three subtropical forest types-coniferous, mixed, and broad-leaved—in the Tianjing Mountains, South China, after a series of rare icy rain and freezing snow events in 2008. The results showed that damage and recovery rates were both dependent on tree age, with the proportion of damaged vegetation increasing with age (estimated by diameter at breast height, DBH) in all three forest types and gradually plateauing. Significant variation occurred among forest types. Young trees in the coniferous forest were more vulnerable than those in the broad-leaved forest. The type of damage also varied with tree age in different ways in the three forest types. The proportion of young seedlings that were uprooted (the most severe type of damage) was highest in the coniferous forest. In the mixed forest, young trees were significantly more likely to be uprooted than seedlings and adult trees, while in the broad-leaved forest, the proportion of uprooted adult trees was significantly higher than that of seedlings and young trees. There were also differences among forest types in how tree age affected damage recovery. In the coniferous forest, the recovery rate of trees with broken trunks or crowns (DBH > 2.5 cm) increased with tree age. However, in the mixed and broad-leaved forests, no obvious correlation between the recovery rate of trees with broken trunks or crowns and tree age was observed. Trees with severe root damage did not recover; they were uprooted and died. In these forests, vegetation damage and recovery showed tree age dependencies, which varied with tree shape, forest type, and damage type. Understanding this dependency will guide restoration after freezing rain and snow disturbances.


freezing rain and snow tree age damage restoration subtropical forest 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • LiRong Zhu
    • 1
  • Ting Zhou
    • 1
  • BaoMing Chen
    • 1
  • ShaoLin Peng
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Biocontrol, Key Laboratory of Biodiversity Dynamics and Conservation of Guangdong Higher Education Institutes, School of Life SciencesSun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouChina

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