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Long-term dynamics of the long-lived conifer Libocedrus bidwillii after a volcanic eruption 2000 years ago

by admin last modified 2008-03-25 02:06 PM

Ogden J, Fordham RA, Horrocks M, Pilkington S, Serra RG. 2005. Journal of Vegetation Science 16, 321-330.


Question Following a volcanic eruption of ca. 232 AD, known as Taupo, the emergent conifer Libocedrus bidwillii expanded on Mt Hauhungatahi, upwards above the current tree-line, and downwards into the mixed montane forest. We ask: (1) if current age-structures at different altitudes support the patterns predicted by the temporal stand replacement model, with cohort senescence and progressively depleting recruitment at ca. 600 year intervals (average cohort age) since the eruption; and (2) if the case history of the population sheds light on the persistence of mixed conifer-hardwood forests in general.

Location Mt Hauhungatahi, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand.

Methods The species composition and structure of seven stands covering the altitudinal range of Libocedrus bidwillii, were quantified. Libocedrus trees were cored, and regression equations used to predict ages. Cohorts were identified.

Results Libocedrus densities and basal areas, and the abundance of seedlings and saplings, peaked at different altitudes. At the species’ lower limits there has been no recruitment for ca. 550 years, and the angiosperm Weinmannia racemosa has gained dominance. In the tree-line and sub-alpine forest stands, a low level of continuous regeneration has been boosted by periodic cohort recruitment following exogenous disturbances.

Conclusions In the montane zone, the Libocedrus age structure, and its replacement by Weinmannia, are consistent with a model of depleting cohorts separated by ca. 600 years since the Taupo eruption. At higher altitudes more frequent disturbances and reduced competition have allowed Libocedrus persistence. Comparison with other studies suggests long-term relationships between gymnosperms and angiosperms are mediated by the scale and frequency of disturbance.


Altitudinal sequence, competition, disturbance regime, forest dynamics, Holocene history, regeneration gap, Weinmannia racemosa.

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