Stand dynamics of mixed-Nothofagus forest
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Sustainable management of mixed-species forests for timber is underpinned by research on forest stand dynamics and quantification of tree recruitment, growth and mortality rates. Different performance among species across light gradients theoretically prevents more shade-tolerant species from excluding shade-intolerant species, driving succession and allowing species coexistence. This research investigates stand dynamics and performance trade-offs for co-occurring tree species: Nothofagus fusca (red beech) and Nothofagus menziesii (silver beech), which together dominate extensive areas of New Zealand’s indigenous forest. Using permanent plot data, measurements of permanently tagged individuals are used to quantify recruitment, growth and mortality rates for each species, across size classes and life-history stages (i.e. seedlings, trees). First, seedling growth and mortality is examined in relation to microhabitats (e.g., light, substrate type) and contrasted with patterns of seedling abundance. Second, spatially explicit permanent plot data are used to examine tree growth in relation to competition, local disturbance and tree size over a 23-year period. Third, the influence of competition and disturbance on tree mortality and spatial patterns of tree mortality are examined. Fourth, a simulation model for tree population dynamics is parameterised for mixed-Nothofagus forest and used to evaluate long term consequences of disturbances (e.g. alternate harvesting regimes) on structure and composition. Small-scale disturbance favoured each species at different life stages and for different measures of performance (i.e. recruitment, growth or mortality). N. fusca seedlings and trees grew fast in high light microhabitats, such as those created by small-scale disturbances, but adult N. fusca mortality was elevated near sites of recent disturbance. By contrast, N. menziesii trees grew faster near sites of recent disturbance, which may help this species persist. Consequently, simulation results showed that small-scale disturbance frequency was a major determinant of forest composition and structure, determining whether N. fusca or N. menziesii is dominant. The simulation model could be developed further and used to inform the sustainable management of mixed-Nothofagus forests.