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  1. *Differential disturbance severity effects on forest vegetation structure, species diversity, and net primary production (NPP) have been long theorized and observed. Here, we examined these factors concurrently to explore the potential for a mechanistic pathway linking disturbance severity, changes in light environment, leaf functional response, and wood NPP in a temperate hardwood forest. *Using a suite of measurements spanning an experimental gradient of tree mortality, we evaluated the direction and magnitude of change in vegetation structural and diversity indexes in relation to wood NPP. Informed by prior observations, we hypothesized that forest structural and species diversity changes and wood NPP would exhibit either a linear, unimodal, or threshold response in relation to disturbance severity. We expected increasing disturbance severity would progressively shift subcanopy light availability and leaf traits, thereby coupling structural and species diversity changes with primary production. *Linear or unimodal changes in three of four vegetation structural indexes were observed across the gradient in disturbance severity. However, disturbance-related changes in vegetation structure were not consistently correlated with shifts in light environment, leaf traits, and wood NPP. Species diversity indexes did not change in response to rising disturbance severity. *We conclude that, in our study system, the sensitivity of woodmore »NPP to rising disturbance severity is generally tied to changing vegetation structure but not species diversity. Changes in vegetation structure are inconsistently coupled with light environment and leaf traits, resulting in mixed support for our hypothesized cascade linking disturbance severity to wood NPP.« less
  2. Globally, planted forests are rapidly replacing naturally regenerated stands but the implications for canopy structure, carbon (C) storage, and the linkages between the two are unclear. We investigated the successional dynamics, interlinkages and mechanistic relationships between wood net primary production (NPPw) and canopy structure in planted and naturally regenerated red pine (Pinus resinosa Sol. ex Aiton) stands spanning ≥ 45 years of development. We focused our canopy structural analysis on leaf area index (LAI) and a spatially integrative, terrestrial LiDAR-based complexity measure, canopy rugosity, which is positively correlated with NPPw in several naturally regenerated forests, but which has not been investigated in planted stands. We estimated stand NPPw using a dendrochronological approach and examined whether canopy rugosity relates to light absorption and light–use efficiency. We found that canopy rugosity increased similarly with age in planted and naturally regenerated stands, despite differences in other structural features including LAI and stem density. However, the relationship between canopy rugosity and NPPw was negative in planted and not significant in naturally regenerated stands, indicating structural complexity is not a globally positive driver of NPPw. Underlying the negative NPPw-canopy rugosity relationship in planted stands was a corresponding decline in light-use efficiency, which peaked in themore »youngest, densely stocked stand with high LAI and low structural complexity. Even with significant differences in the developmental trajectories of canopy structure, NPPw, and light use, planted and naturally regenerated stands stored similar amounts of C in wood over a 45-year period. We conclude that widespread increases in planted forests are likely to affect age-related patterns in canopy structure and NPPw, but planted and naturally regenerated forests may function as comparable long-term C sinks via different structural and mechanistic pathways.« less