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This content will become publicly available on March 14, 2025

Title: Logging response alters trajectories of reorganization after loss of a foundation tree species

Forest insect outbreaks cause large changes in ecosystem structure, composition, and function. Humans often respond to insect outbreaks by conducting salvage logging, which can amplify the immediate effects, but it is unclear whether logging will result in lasting differences in forest structure and dynamics when compared with forests affected only by insect outbreaks. We used 15 years of data from an experimental removal ofTsuga canadensis(L.) Carr. (Eastern hemlock), a foundation tree species within eastern North American forests, and contrasted the rate, magnitude, and persistence of response trajectories between girdling (emulating mortality from insect outbreak) and timber harvest treatments. Girdling and logging were equally likely to lead to large changes in forest structure and dynamics, but logging resulted in faster rates of change. Understory light increases and community composition changes were larger and more rapid in the logged plots. Tree seedling and understory vegetation abundance increased more in the girdled plots; this likely occurred because seedlings grew rapidly into the sapling‐ and tree‐size classes after logging and quickly shaded out plants on the forest floor. Downed deadwood pools increased more after logging but standing deadwood pools increased dramatically after girdling. Understory light levels remained elevated for a longer time after girdling. Perhaps because the window of opportunity for understory species to establish was longer in the girdled plots, total species richness increased more in the girdled than logged plots. Despite the potential for greater diversity in the girdled plots,Betula lentaL. (black birch) was the most abundant tree species recruited into the sapling‐ and tree‐size classes in both the girdled and logged plots and is poised to dominate the new forest canopy. The largest difference between the girdling and logging treatments—deadwood structure and quantity—will persist and continue to bolster aboveground carbon storage and structural and habitat diversity in the girdled plots. Human responses to insect outbreaks hasten forest reorganization and remove structural resources that may further alter forest response to ongoing climate stress and future disturbances.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Ecological Applications
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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