- Fraver, Shawn
School of Forest Resources, University of Maine
- White, Alan S.
- Seymour, Robert S.
Disturbance histories derived from old-growth forest remnants in Europe and eastern North America have shaped many of our current theories of forest dynamics and succession. Yet the small size typical of these remnants suggests they might not capture the full range of variability that may emerge at larger scales. We investigated the frequency and severity of natural disturbance in a 2000-ha old-growth landscape (Big Reed Forest Reserve) in northern Maine, USA. Given its size, the Reserve provides an ideal opportunity to study, at multiple scales, natural forest processes in a region that has otherwise been dramatically altered by human activities. Using dendrochronological methods, were constructed disturbance histories for 37 randomly located plots stratified by five forest types (hardwood forests, mixed woods forests, red spruce forests, northern white-cedar seepage forestsand northern white-cedar swamps). We found no evidence of stand replacing disturbance on any plot during the last 120–280 years (depending on plot). The overall mean disturbance rate was 9.6% canopy loss per decade (median 6.5%, maximum 55%, plots pooled), yet the distribution was strongly skewed toward the lower rates. We found little differences in disturbance rates between forest types, save a slightly lower rate in the northern white-cedar swamps. However, if we ignore forest-type classifications, we see that disturbance rates are clearly influenced by gradients in the relative abundance of component tree species, owing to species’ relative susceptibilities to particular disturbance agents.