The capacity of rainforests to recover from logging disturbance is difficult to model due to the compounding interactions between long-term disturbance effects, natural dynamics, site characteristics and tree species regeneration strategies. The aim of this study was to develop a quantitative model using over three decades of data from stands subjected to various levels of disturbance ranging from natural, through increasing intensities of tree removal to intensive logging. Data for trees ¡Ý 10 cm diameter at 1.3 m above the ground (dbh) in subtropical rainforest of north-east New South Wales, Australia were used. Botanical identity of trees at species level, species-specific shade tolerance and size at maturity were used to classify 117 species into five groups. These groups include the emergent and shade tolerant main canopy species, shade tolerant mid canopy species, shade tolerant understorey species, moderate shade tolerant species, and shade intolerant tree species. Multilevel nonlinear regression was used to estimate growth, recruitment and mortality parameters, based on the assumption of variations in tree species performance at both the plot and tree levels. The species group, tree size and competition from larger trees accounted for most variation at the tree level. Significant stand level variables included topography (elevation, slope and aspect), stand basal area, and time since the disturbance. The final model is a classical matrix management-oriented model with an ecological basis and maximum size-dependent parameters of ingrowth and outgrowth. The model provides a tool to simulate stand performance after logging and to assess silvicultural prescriptions before they are applied. Simulations with estimated parameters indicate that moderate harvesting (47% overstorey basal area (BA) removal) in a checkerboard of logged and unlogged patches (group selection) on a 120-year cycle could enable sustainable timber production without compromising the ecological integrity in these rainforests. This is due to reduced logging damage in group selection, which also released retained stems and facilitated recruitment of both shade tolerant and intolerant trees. Single-tree selection (35% BA removal) created small canopy gaps that resulted in low recruitment, a slight increase in the growth of retained stems and recovery time of 150 years. Intensive single-tree selection (50% BA removal) resulted in high logging damage that increased recovery time to 180 years. Intensive logging (65-80% BA removal) decreased the stem density and created larger canopy gaps allowing for high growth rates and recruitment of both shade tolerant and intolerant trees. However, few retained stems and high mortality of recruits, increased the recovery time to 180-220 years. Pre-harvest climber cutting coupled with poisoning of nontimber species followed by logging could allow harvesting on a 300-year cycle. Shorter logging cycles may lead to changes in species composition as well as in the forest structure.
Kariuki, M, Kooyman, RM, Brooks, LO, Smith, RGB & Vanclay, JK 2006, 'Modelling growth, recruitments and mortality to describe and simulate dynamics of subtropical rainforests following different levels of disturbance', Forest Biometry, Modelling and Information Sciences, vol. 1, pp. 22-46.
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