Neighborhood Analyses Of Canopy Tree Competition Along Environmental Gradients In New England Forests

Canham, Charles D.; Papaik, Michael J.; Uriarte, Maria; McWilliams, William H.; Jenkins, Jennifer C.; Twery, Mark J.

We use permanent-plot data from the USDA Forest Service's Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program for an analysis of the effects of competition on tree growth along environmental gradients for the 14 most abundant tree species in forests of northern New England, USA. Our analysis estimates actual growth for each individual tree of a given species as a function of average potential diameter growth modified by three sets of scalars that quantify the effects on growth of (1) initial target tree size (dbh), (2) local environmental conditions, and (3) crowding by neighboring trees. Potential growth of seven of the 14 species varied along at least one of the two environmental axes identified by an ordination of relative abundance of species in plots. The relative abundances of a number of species were significantly displaced from sites where they showed maximum potential growth. In all of these cases, abundance was displaced to the more resource-poor end of the environmental gradient (either low fertility or low moisture). The pattern was most pronounced among early successional species, whereas late-successional species reached their greatest abundance on sites where they also showed the highest growth in the absence of competition. The analysis also provides empirical estimates of the strength of intraspecific and interspecific competitive effects of neighbors. For all but one of the species, our results led us to reject the hypothesis that all species of competitors have equivalent effects on a target species. Most of the individual pairwise interactions were strongly asymmetric. There was a clear competitive hierarchy among the four most shade-tolerant species, and a separate competitive hierarchy among the shade-intolerant species. Our results suggest that timber yield following selective logging will vary dramatically depending on the configuration of the residual canopy, because of interspecific variation in the magnitude of both the competitive effects of different species of neighbors and the competitive responses of different species of target trees to neighbors. The matrix of competition coefficients suggests that there may be clear benefits in managing for specific mixtures of species within local neighborhoods within stands.



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Academic Units
Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology
Ecological Society of America
Published Here
November 9, 2014