Canopy tree development and undergrowth bamboo dynamics in old-growth Abies-Betula forests in southwestern China: A 12-year study

Alan H. Taylor, Huang Jinyan, Zhou ShiQiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


Interactions between forest canopy characteristics and plants in the forest understory are important determinants of forest community structure and dynamics. In the highlands of southwestern, China the dwarf bamboo Bashania fangiana Yi is an understory dominant beneath a mixed canopy of the evergreen Abies faxoniana (Rheder & Wilson) and the deciduous Betula utilis (D. Don). The goal of this study was to better understand the role of bamboo dominance, canopy characteristics, and periodic bamboo dieback on forest development. To achieve this goal, we measured tree seedling, tree saplings, and trees, forest canopy characteristics, and bamboo cover in permanent forest (n = 4) and gap plots (n = 31) in a mixed A. faxoniana and B. utilis forest in Sichuan, China. Dwarf bamboos died off in 1983 in the gap plots, and in three of the four forest plots. Forest development was assessed for the period 1984-1996. The seedling bank in forest and gap plots increased after bamboo die-off. A. faxoniana seedlings increased more than B. utilis in forest plots; the opposite pattern characterized gap plots. The proportion of seedlings on raised micro-sites on the forest floor also changed and new seedling were more abundant on the forest floor. By 1996, bamboo seedling cover and biomass had recovered to ca. 45% or their pre-flowering values. Rates of bamboo seedling recovery were faster beneath canopy gaps and deciduous trees than beneath forest or evergreen trees. Tree mortality exceeded recruitment in plots with dense bamboo; the opposite pattern was found in the plot with little bamboo. The mortality rate for B. utilis trees (2.4% year -1) was higher than that for A. faxoniana (0.8% year -1) and forests with dense bamboos became more open over the census period. Tree mortality was size-dependent and intermediate sized trees had the lowest rates of mortality. Stand basal area increased mainly due to greater basal area gain than loss for A. faxoniana. Interactions between tree species life history, canopy type, and bamboo life-cycles create heterogeneous conditions that influence tree and bamboo regeneration and contribute to the coexistence of A. faxoniana and B. utilis in old-growth forests in southwestern China.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)347-360
Number of pages14
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Oct 25 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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