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Vegetation development of boreal riparian plant communities after flooding, fire, and logging, Peace River, Canada

Author(s): Kevin P. Timoney, George Peterson, Ross W. Wein
Year Published: 1997

In this study vegetation development is compared and contrasted following natural and logging disturbances in a major boreal river valley in Alberta. Permanent sample plots and releves were established and sampled for vegetation and landscape attributes in the Peace River Lowlands, Wood Buffalo National Park (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site), in June and July of 1993 and 1994. The study area was Timber Berth 408, a previously commercially valuable riparian old-growth white spruce (Picea glauca) forests heavily (over)logged until 1992. In the Peace River Lowlands, primary succession is a flood-origin process. Secondary succession may be either autogenic through gap dynamics mediated by nursery logs, buried wood, and suckering, or allogenic, following fire or logging. Flood origin accounts for 72% and fire origin for 29% of the undisturbed forests. From 1951 to 1995, 24% of the forest land burned, yielding a fire return interval of 186 yr. Forest successional trajectories are set soon after flood, logging, or fire, with little evidence of gradual replacement of one forest type by another. Vegetation composition and relative species abundance are strongly correlated with living moss depth, moss-lichen total cover, total tree cover, herb cover, and canopy height. Species with high indicator value are Hylocomium splendens, Picea glauca, Pyrola chlorantha, Equisetum pratense, and Epilobium angustifolium. Strong correlations exist between white spruce tree density and canopy height, total tree cover and canopy height, total tree cover and basal area per hectare, basal area and canopy height, and between canopy height and surface age. Clear felled areas are initially dominated by rose-raspberry (Rosa acicularis/Rubus spp.) followed by balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) with lesser amounts of Alaska birch (Betula neoalaskana) and aspen (Populus tremuloides). After logging, temporal changes in composition and dominance occur more rapidly than during natural succession. There is no evidence of post-logging convergence toward the original white spruce and mixedwood forests; a long-term deciduous disclimax is predicted. Vegetation associations, successional pathways, landscape relationships, and ecological benchmarks are identified.

Citation: Timoney, Kevin P.; Peterson, George; Wein, Ross W. 1997. Vegetation development of boreal riparian plant communities after flooding, fire, and logging, Peace River, Canada. Forest Ecology and Management 93(1-2):101-120.
Topic(s): Fire Ecology, Successional Changes, Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Water
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 18681
FRAMES RCS number: 36292
TTRS (Tall Timbers Research Station) Number: 10657
Record updated: Dec 3, 2018