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Am J Bot. 2010 Sep;97(9):1424-30. doi: 10.3732/ajb1000054.

Merged trees in second-growth, fire-origin forests in Patagonia, Chile: positive spatial association patterns and their ecological implications.

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1
Centro de Investigación en Ecosistemas de la Patagonia, Bilbao 449, Coyhaique, Chile.

Abstract

PREMISE OF THE STUDY:

Negative density-dependent processes have been thought to be the primary cause of shifting spatial patterns of tree populations through time. The existence of adult tree clusters might challenge this classical prediction. Here, we document the prevalence of merged stems (clustering of mature trees leading to stem fusion) in second-growth forests of Nothofagus pumilio and hypothesize that it is nonrandom but predictable in space. •

METHODS:

We stem-mapped nine sites in second-growth edge and interior forests of fire origin and in mature forests of N. pumilio (>3500 trees) in central Patagonia, Chile. The spatial structure of stand-level and individual-level features was estimated with spatial analyses (pair-correlation function and nearest-neighbor distances). •

KEY RESULTS:

Multistemmed trees were merged clusters of separate individuals. Merged trees were predominantly found at the edge of the second-growth forests. We found strong clustering (≤5 m) at forest edge sites and none at interior sites. Nearest-neighbor distance distributions were unimodal for unmerged trees and monotonically decreasing for merged trees; interstem distances were much smaller at the edge sites than at the interior sites. •

CONCLUSIONS:

The occurrence of merged trees at the forest edge, and the resulting high spatial aggregation of stems, is consistent with the hypothesis that establishment was probably aggregated. The spatial pattern found at the forest edge changes the standard spatial pattern sequence through time in temperate forests, altering traditional forest-stand-dynamics models.

PMID:
21616896
DOI:
10.3732/ajb1000054
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