Understanding compositional stability in mixedwood forests of eastern north america

Christel C. Kern, Justin D. Waskiewicz, Lee Frelich, Bethany L. Muñoz Delgado, Laura S. Kenefic, Kenneth L. Clark, John M. Kabrick

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12 Scopus citations


Mixedwood forest composition, or co-dominance of hardwood and softwood species, has been interpreted as both stable and unstable. Through review of existing theory, we propose a conceptual model to understand mixedwood compositional stability in boreal and temperate forests of eastern North America. We first review the current theory that the strength of neighborhood effects (i.e., species ability to self-replace under their own canopy) is essential to understanding stability such that when self-replacement is strong for both dominant hardwood and softwood species, composition is stable except at extreme disturbance severities. In contrast, when mixedwood forests are dominated by negligible or weak affinities to self-replace, composition is unstable and sensitive to changes in disturbance. Our new concept further posits that changes in both the disturbance severity and its vertical direction are essential to understanding stability. For example, where moderate-severity surface fires (which impact forests from below) cease and are replaced by moderate-severity blowdowns (which impact forests from above), instability can occur even when disturbance severity is unchanged. We therefore pose and discuss an extension to current theory to provide a new unifying concept of stability for mixedwood forests and, more broadly, for mixed-species forests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)897-909
Number of pages13
JournalCanadian Journal of Forest Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021

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  • Compositional resilience
  • Deciduous-coniferous mixtures
  • Mixed-species forests
  • Neighborhood effects
  • Regeneration strategy


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