Journal of Forestry Research

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 725–736 | Cite as

A review of the roles of forest canopy gaps

  • Adele Muscolo
  • Silvio Bagnato
  • Maria Sidari
  • Roberto Mercurio
Review Article


Treefall gap, canopy opening caused by the death of one or more trees, is the dominant form of disturbance in many forest systems worldwide. Gaps play an important role in forest ecology helping to preserve bio- and pedo-diversity, influencing nutrient cycles, and maintaining the complex structure of the late-successional forests. Over the last 30 years, numerous reviews have been written describing gap dynamics. Here we synthesize current understanding on gap dynamics relating to tree regeneration with particular emphasis on gap characteristics considered critical to develop ecologically sustainable forest management systems and to conserve native biodiversity. Specifically, we addressed the question: how do gaps influence forest structure? From the literature reviewed, the size of gaps induces important changes in factors such as light intensity, soil humidity and soil biological properties that influence tree species regeneration and differ in gaps of different sizes. Shadetolerant species can colonize small gaps; shade-intolerant species need large gaps for successful regeneration. Additionally, gap dynamics differ between temperate, boreal, and tropical forests, showing the importance of climate differences in driving forest regeneration. This review summarizes information of use to forest managers who design cutting regimes that mimic natural disturbances and who must consider forest structure, forest climate, and the role of natural disturbance in their designs.


biodiversity gap cutting gap dynamic forest management forest restoration 


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Copyright information

© Northeast Forestry University and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adele Muscolo
    • 1
  • Silvio Bagnato
    • 1
  • Maria Sidari
    • 1
  • Roberto Mercurio
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Agraria“Mediterranea” University of Reggio CalabriaReggio CalabriaItaly

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