Canadian Forest Service Publications

Comparisons of spatial patterns between windthrow and logging at two spatial scales. 2014. Waldron, K.; Ruel, J.-C.; Gauthier, S.; Goulet, P. Can. J. For. Res. 44:740-749.

Year: 2014

Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 35596

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1139/cjfr-2013-0402

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Windthrow is a dominant natural disturbance in the boreal forest of eastern Canada. To provide the range of variability of a natural disturbance, its spatial distribution and patch metrics at stand and landscape scales have to be considered, together with the characterization of its severity. Our study characterized both partial windthrow (PW) and total windthrow (TW) spatial distributions at the landscape scale and patchiness within affected stands (stand scale). Landscape scale corresponded to three areas of about 5000 ha. Stand scale was the finest scale of analysis and corresponded to each affected stand within landscapes. In addition, windthrow spatial characteristics were compared with spatial characteristics of harvested areas (CUT). At the landscape scale, our results showed that TW stands were more isolated than PW stands and that mean shape complexity of disturbed stands was low, regardless of whether the disturbance was a windthrow or a harvested area. At the affected stand scale, residual trees covered a significantly higher proportion of PW stands than TW stands and CUT. CUT and TW did not share many spatial characteristics at the stand scale. CUT had a significantly higher proportion of complete canopy openness than TW. Our results showed that PW are spatially heterogeneous at both landscape and stand scales. In an ecosystem management context, i.e., a management that reduces the discrepancy between natural and managed forests, our results showed that forest managers could practice a variety of harvesting methods of different intensities.

Plain Language Summary

Windthrow is a tree or group of trees that has been overturned, uprooted or broken by wind. It is a dominant natural disturbance in the boreal forest of eastern Canada. This study aimed to characterize the spatial distribution of partial windthrow (PW, i.e. less than 75% of forest cover affected) and total windthrow (TW, more than 75% of forest cover affected) at the landscape scale, in three study areas. The researchers also studied the distribution of residual trees within the affected stands. Windthrow spatial characteristics (size and shape) were also compared with the spatial characteristics of harvested areas.

At the landscape scale, the results showed that TW stands were more isolated than PW stands and openings created by logging were more homogeneous than those created by windthrow. At the stand scale, the researchers noted that there were far more residual trees in PW stands than in harvested and TW stands.

These studies will assist in the development of ecosystem-based management approaches that approximate natural disturbances.