Canadian Forest Service Publications

Development of the gap model ZELIG-CFS to predict the dynamics of North American mixed forest types with complex structures. 2011. Larocque, G.R.; Archambault, L.; Delisle, C. Ecol. Model. 222:2570-2583.

Year: 2011

Available from: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 32629

Language: English

CFS Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)


When the development of gap models began about three decades ago, they became a new category of forest productivity models. Compared with traditional growth and yield models, which aim at deriving empirical relationships that best fit data, gap models use semi-theoretical relationships to simulate biotic and abiotic processes in forest stands, including the effects of photosynthetic active radiation interception, site fertility, temperature and soil moisture on tree growth and seedling establishment. While growth and yield models are appropriate to predict short-term stemwood production, gap models may be used to predict the natural course of species replacement for several generations. Because of the poor availability of historical data and knowledge on species-specific allometric relationships, species replacement and death rate, it has seldom been possible to develop and evaluate the most representative algorithms to predict growth and mortality with a high degree of accuracy. For this reason, the developers of gap models focused more on developing simulation tools to improve the understanding of forest succession than predicting growth and yield accurately. In a previous study, the predictions of simulations in two southeastern Canadian mixed ecosystem types using the ZELIG gap model were compared with long-term historical data. This exercise highlighted model components that needed modifications to improve the predictive capacity of ZELIG. The updated version of the model, ZELIG-CFS, includes modifications in the modelling of crown interaction effects, survival rate and regeneration. Different algorithms representing crown interactive effects between crowns were evaluated and species-specific model components that compute individual-tree mortality probability rate were derived. The results of the simulations were compared using long-term remeasurement data obtained from sample plots located in La Mauricie National Park of Canada in Quebec. In the present study, three forest types were studied: (1) red spruce-balsam fir-yellow birch, (2) yellow birch-sugar maple-balsam fir, and (3) red spruce-balsam fir-white birch mixed ecosystems. Among the seven algorithms that represented individual crown interactions, two better predicted the changes in basal area and individual tree growth: (1) the mean available light growing factor (ALGF), which is computed from the proportion of light intercepted at different levels of individual crowns adjusted by the species-specific shade tolerance index, and (2) the ratio of mean ALGF to crown width. The long-term predicted patterns of change in basal area were consistent with the life history of the different species.

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