This study examines aspects of stand development in young mixed hardwood-conifer forests on upland sites in interior Alaska, with the goal of refining concepts of plant community succession. Specific objectives were: (i) describe the structural characteristics of young mixed hardwood-conifer stands, including composition, horizontal and vertical arrangement and component size; (ii)define common stand development patterns; (iii) compare juvenile height and diameter growth increments for the different species; (iv) correlate existing stand structure with stand-disturbing events; and (v) suggest considerations for manipulating stand structure and composition of mixed stands to maintain productivity and provide a variety of forest products. Techniques involve the study of disturbance events, establishment and growth patterns following disturbance and the resulting stand structure. Procedures used were: (i) develop a community type classification to partition the variability within the ecosystem into units having similar floristic features; (ii) determine the successional trends within each community type by reconstructing the growth patterns along a chronosequence; (iii) describe common structural attributes of the community types and relate these to stand dynamics; and (iv) develop height growth relationships and estimates of productivity by species within the community types. A total of 53 upland mixed communities were sampled and classified into five community types: Populus tremuloides/Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Populus tremuloides/Shepherdia canadensis, Betula papyrifera-Populus tremuloides/Viburnum edule, Betula papyrifera-Populus tremuloides/Alnus crispa and Picea glauca-Betula papyrifera/Hylocomium splendens. Community types were described on the basis of distribution and physical environment, vegetation composition and structural features, successional relationships of stand development, productivity estimates and relationship to previously described vegetation units. Two stand development patterns were identified. The first pattern was rapid establishment of hardwoods, followed by prolonged establishment of conifers. This pattern describes development within the Populus tremuloides/Arctostaphylos uva-ursi and Populus tremuloides/Shepherdia canadensis community types. In contrast, a second pattern occurring most often in the remaining three community types was one of rapid concurrent establishment of hardwoods and conifers. Productivity of open-grown conifers was differentiated from that of stand-grown or suppressed conifers. Estimates of productivity are generally dissimilar to those for pure, even-aged and fully stocked stands.
Thesis (Ph.D.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 1992
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