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  1. The capacity of forests to resist structural change and retain material legacies–the biotic and abiotic resources that persist through disturbance–is crucial to sustaining ecosystem function after disturbance. However, the role of forest structure as both a material legacy and feature supporting carbon (C) cycling stability following disturbance has not been widely investigated. We used a large-scale disturbance manipulation to ask whether legacies of lidar-derived canopy structures drive 3-year primary production responses to disturbance. As part of the Forest Resilience Threshold Experiment (FoRTE) in northern Michigan, USA we simulated phloem-disrupting disturbances producing a range of severities and affecting canopy trees of different sizes. We quantified the legacies of forest structure using two approaches: one measuring the change in structure and primary production from pre-to post-disturbance and the second estimating resistance as log transformed ratios of control and treatment values. We found that total aboveground wood net primary production (ANPP w ) was similar across disturbance severities as legacy trees rapidly increased rates of primary production. Experiment-wide, the disturbance had limited effects on change in mean structural complexity values; however, high variance underscored large differences in the magnitude and direction of complexity's response at the plot-scale. Plot-scale structural complexity, but not vegetationmore »area index (VAI), resistance strongly predicted ANPP w resistance while temporal VAI and structural complexity changes did not. We conclude that the presence of material legacies in the form of forest structure may affect primary production stability following disturbance and that how legacies are quantified may affect the interpretation of disturbance response.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 19, 2023
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  3. Canopy defoliation is an important source of disturbance in forest ecosystems that has rarely been represented in large-scale manipulation experiments. Scalable crown to canopy level experimental defoliation is needed to disentangle the effects of variable intensity, timing, and frequency on forest structure, function, and mortality. We present a novel pressure-washing-based defoliation method that can be implemented at the canopy-scale, throughout the canopy volume, targeted to individual leaves or trees, and completed within a timeframe of hours or days. Pressure washing proved successful at producing consistent leaf-level and whole-canopy defoliation, with 10%–20% reduction in leaf area index and consistent leaf surface area removal across branches and species. This method allows for stand-scale experimentation on defoliation disturbance in forested ecosystems and has the potential for broad application. Studies utilizing this standardized method could promote mechanistic understanding of defoliation effects on ecosystem structure and function and development of synthetic understanding across forest types, ecoregions, and defoliation sources.
  4. Carbon (C) cycling processes are particularly dynamic following disturbance, with initial responses often indicative of longer-term change. In northern Michigan, USA, we initiated the Forest Resilience Threshold Experiment (FoRTE) to identify the processes that sustain or lead to the decline of C cycling rates across multiple levels (0, 45, 65 and 85% targeted gross leaf area index loss) of disturbance severity and, in response, to separate disturbance types preferentially targeting large or small diameter trees. Simulating the effects of boring insects, we stem girdled > 3600 trees below diameter at breast height (DBH), immediately and permanently disrupting the phloem. Weekly DBH measurements of girdled and otherwise healthy trees (n > 700) revealed small but significant increases in daily aboveground wood net primary production (ANPPw) in the 65 and 85% disturbance severity treatments that emerged six weeks after girdling. However, we observed minimal change in end-of-season leaf area index and no significant differences in annual ANPPw among disturbance severities or between disturbance types, suggesting continued C fixation by girdled trees sustained stand-scale wood production in the first growing season after disturbance. We hypothesized higher disturbance severities would favor the growth of early successional species but observed no significant difference between earlymore »and middle to late successional species’ contributions to ANPPw across the disturbance severity gradient. We conclude that ANPPw stability immediately following phloem disruption is dependent on the continued, but inevitably temporary, growth of phloem-disrupted trees. Our findings provide insight into the tree-to-ecosystem mechanisms supporting stand-scale wood production stability in the first growing season following a phloem-disrupting disturbance.« less
  5. Phenology is a distinct marker of the impacts of climate change on ecosystems. Accordingly, monitoring the spatiotemporal patterns of vegetation phenology is important to understand the changing Earth system. A wide range of sensors have been used to monitor vegetation phenology, including digital cameras with different viewing geometries mounted on various types of platforms. Sensor perspective, view-angle, and resolution can potentially impact estimates of phenology. We compared three different methods of remotely sensing vegetation phenology—an unoccupied aerial vehicle (UAV)-based, downward-facing RGB camera, a below-canopy, upward-facing hemispherical camera with blue (B), green (G), and near-infrared (NIR) bands, and a tower-based RGB PhenoCam, positioned at an oblique angle to the canopy—to estimate spring phenological transition towards canopy closure in a mixed-species temperate forest in central Virginia, USA. Our study had two objectives: (1) to compare the above- and below-canopy inference of canopy greenness (using green chromatic coordinate and normalized difference vegetation index) and canopy structural attributes (leaf area and gap fraction) by matching below-canopy hemispherical photos with high spatial resolution (0.03 m) UAV imagery, to find the appropriate spatial coverage and resolution for comparison; (2) to compare how UAV, ground-based, and tower-based imagery performed in estimating the timing of the spring phenologicalmore »transition. We found that a spatial buffer of 20 m radius for UAV imagery is most closely comparable to below-canopy imagery in this system. Sensors and platforms agree within +/− 5 days of when canopy greenness stabilizes from the spring phenophase into the growing season. We show that pairing UAV imagery with tower-based observation platforms and plot-based observations for phenological studies (e.g., long-term monitoring, existing research networks, and permanent plots) has the potential to scale plot-based forest structural measures via UAV imagery, constrain uncertainty estimates around phenophases, and more robustly assess site heterogeneity.« less
  6. Zarnetske, Phoebe (Ed.)