Question: Does canopy tree regeneration response to different large disturbances vary with soil drainage?
Location: Old-growth conifer (Dacrydium and Dacrycarpus), angiosperm (Nothofagus and Weinmannia) rain forest, Mount Harata, South Island, New Zealand.
Methods: Trees were aged (1056 cores) to reconstruct stand history in 20 (0.12 - 0.2 ha) plots with different underlying drainage. Spatial analyses of an additional 805 tree ages collected from two (0.3 – 0.7 ha) plots were conducted to detect patchiness for five canopy tree species. Microsite preferences for trees and saplings were determined.
Results: There were clear differences in species regeneration patterns on soils with different drainage. Conifer recruitment occurred infrequently in even-aged patches (> 1000 m2) and only on poorly drained soils. Periodic Nothofagus fusca and N. menziesii recruitment occurred more frequently in different sized canopy openings on all soils. Weinmannia recruitment was more continuous on all soils reflecting their greater relative shade-tolerance. Distinct periods of recruitment that occurred in the last 400 years matched known large disturbances in the region. These events affected species differently as soil drainage varied. Following earthquakes, both conifers and N. menziesii regenerated on poorly drained soils, while Nothofagus species and Weinmannia regenerated on well-drained soils. However, Dacrydium failed to regenerate after patchy storm damage in the wetter forest interior; instead faster-growing N. fusca captured elevated microsites caused by uprooting.
Conclusions: Underlying drainage influenced species composition, while variation in the impacts of large disturbance regulated relative species abundances on different soils.