Does old-growth condition imply high live-tree structural complexity?

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One of the most influential tenets of forest management today is that old-growth forest stands are generally more structurally complex than comparable younger stands. To test this, a chronosequence of 10 stem-mapped Douglas-fir-dominated mixed-conifer stands in the central western Cascades of Oregon were structurally characterized. Old-growth condition was determined using the index of old-growth (Iog); structural complexity was quantified with the structural complexity index (SCI); and spatial tree distribution patterns were evaluated with Ripley's K function. Old-growth condition was positively related to structural complexity, but some stands with typical old-growth characteristics exhibited structures no more complex than those of transitional and mature stands. Analysis of SCI-patch types indicates that variability in structural components shifts from tree-to-tree variation to patch-to-patch variation in some old-growth stands. No consistent spatial tree distribution pattern was detected using Ripley's K. These results suggest that managing forests to promote old-growth structural components without respect to spatial distribution, residual tree densities, tree species composition, or disturbance regime could lead to lower live-tree structural complexity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-258
Number of pages16
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jun 28 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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