Beyond the tropics: forest structure in a temperate forest mapped plot

Question: How do the diversity, size structure, and spatial pattern of woody species in a temperate (Mediterranean climate) forest compare to temperate and tropical forests?

Location: Mixed evergreen coastal forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California, USA.

Methods: We mapped, tagged, identified, and measured all woody stems (≥1cm diameter) in a 6‐ha forest plot, following Center for Tropical Forest Science protocols. We compared patterns to those found in 14 tropical and 12 temperate forest plots.

Results: The forest is dominated by Douglas‐fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and three species of Fagaceae (Quercus agrifolia, Q. parvula var. shrevei, and Lithocarpus densiflorus), and includes 31 woody species and 8180 individuals. Much of the diversity was in small‐diameter shrubs, treelets, and vines that have not been included in most other temperate forest plots because stems <5‐cm diameter had been excluded from study. The density of woody stems (1363 stems ha−1) was lower than that in all but one tropical plot. The density of large trees (diameter ≥30 cm) and basal area were higher than in any tropical plot. Stem density and basal area were similar to most other temperate plots, but were less than in low‐diversity conifer forests. Rare species were strongly aggregated, with the degree of aggregation decreasing with abundance so that the most common species were significantly more regular than random.

Conclusions: The patterns raise questions about differences in structure and dynamics between tropical and temperate forests; these need to be confirmed with additional temperate zone mapped plots that include small‐diameter individuals.

Gregory S. Gilbert, Elizabeth Howard, Bárbara Ayala‐Orozco, Martha Bonilla-Moheno, Justin Cummings, Suzanne Langridge, Ingrid M. Parker, Jae Pasari, Daniella Schweizer, & Sarah Swope
Journal of Vegetation Science