3 years ago

Patterns of mortality in a montane mixed-conifer forest in San Diego County, California

Mary Pyott Freeman, Li An, Douglas A. Stow
We examine spatial patterns of conifer tree mortality and their changes over time for the montane mixed-conifer forests of San Diego County. These forest areas have recently experienced extensive tree mortality due to multiple factors. A spatial contextual image processing approach was utilized with high spatial resolution digital airborne imagery to map dead trees for the years 1997, 2000, 2002, and 2005 for three study areas: Palomar, Volcan, and Laguna mountains. Plot-based fieldwork was conducted to further assess mortality patterns. Mean mortality remained static from 1997 to 2002 (4, 2.2, and 4.2 trees/ha for Palomar, Volcan, and Laguna) and then increased by 2005 to 10.3, 9.7, and 5.2 trees/ha, respectively. The increase in mortality between 2002 and 2005 represents the temporal pattern of a discrete disturbance event, attributable to the 2002–2003 drought. Dead trees are significantly clustered for all dates, based on spatial cluster analysis, indicating that they form distinct groups, as opposed to spatially random single dead trees. Other tests indicate no directional shift or spread of mortality over time, but rather an increase in density. While general temporal and spatial mortality processes are uniform across all study areas, the plot-based species and quantity distribution of mortality, and diameter distributions of dead vs. living trees, vary by study area. The results of this study improve our understanding of stand- to landscape-level forest structure and dynamics, particularly by examining them from the multiple perspectives of field and remotely sensed data.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1002/eap.1601

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