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Population dynamics of canopy trees in New Caledonian rain forests: are monodominant Nothofagus (Nothofagaceae) forests successional to mixed rain forests?

  • Jennifer Read (a1) and Tanguy Jaffré (a2)
Abstract:

In New Caledonia, rain forests with an upper canopy dominated by single species of Nothofagus occur next to mixed-canopy forests, without discernible environmental cause. A potential explanation is that they are different successional stages. To test this hypothesis and predict long-term change in canopy dominance, population size structures of 61 canopy species were analysed in six Nothofagus-dominated forests and three adjacent mixed rain forests. Weibull analysis suggests that these Nothofagus forests are secondary forests, with recruitment insufficient to maintain monodominance, except at a high-altitude site. At low- to mid-altitudes the Nothofagus canopy is predicted to develop into a mixed canopy, unless moderate to severe disturbance occurs within its reproductive lifespan. However, adjacent mixed rain forests are also secondary, with 85% of analysed species showing no evidence of continuous regeneration. Fifteen species from both forest types showed reverse-J curves suggesting continuous regeneration, but only Calophyllum caledonicum did so consistently. Since few canopy species showed evidence of high shade tolerance and persistence, a small number of shade-tolerant species is predicted to dominate both forests in the long term, in the hypothetical absence of disturbance. Hence, temporal factors associated with disturbances play a key role in determining dominance in these forests.

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1Corresponding author. Email: jenny.read@monash.edu
References
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