USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station

Pacific Southwest
Research Station

800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011
(510) 883-8830
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Publications and Products

Title: Variations in tree growth provide limited evidence of species mixture effects in Interior West USA mixed‐conifer forests

Authors: Looney, Christopher E.; Previant, Wilfred J.; Nagel, Linda M.

Date: 2020

Source Journal of Ecology


1. In mixed stands, species complementarity (e.g. facilitation and competition reduction) may enhance forest tree productivity. Although positive mixture effects have been identified in forests world‐wide, the majority of studies have focused on two‐species interactions in managed systems with high functional diversity. We extended this line of research to examine mixture effects on tree productivity across landscape‐scale compositional and environmental gradients in the low functional diversity, fire‐suppressed, mixed‐conifer forests of the U.S. Interior West.

2. We investigated mixture effects on the productivity of Pinus ponderosaPseudotsuga menziesii and Abies concolor. Using region‐wide forest inventory data, we created individual‐tree generalized linear mixed models and examined the growth of these species across community gradients. We compared the relative influences of stand structure, age, competition and environmental stress on mixture effects using multi‐model inference. We analysed growth of neighbouring tree species to infer whether a mixture effect in a single species translated to the stand‐level.

3. We found support for a positive mixture effect in P. menziesii, although our results were equivocal in light of a weaker but still plausible alternative model. Growth of P. menziesii neighbouring species in mixed stands declined or held constant depending on aridity, suggesting that a positive mixture effect in P. menziesii does not necessarily extend to the stand level. We found no evidence for mixture effects in P. ponderosaA. concolor or their neighbouring species.

4. Complementarity appears to have a limited influence on tree growth in the mixed‐conifer systems of the U.S. Interior West, reflecting limited functional diversity. Historical changes in stand structure following fire exclusion, particularly high stand densities, may limit the potential for positive species mixture effects. The limited species pool of Interior West forests increases the risk that, without careful management, what functional diversity exists could be lost to compositional changes resulting from stand dynamics or disturbance.

Keywords: environmental gradient, forest structure, individual-tree growth modelling, mixed-conifer forest, National Forest Inventory, species complementarity, species mixture, stress-gradient hypothesis

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    Looney, Christopher E.; Previant, Wilfred J.; Nagel, Linda M. 2020. Variations in tree growth provide limited evidence of species mixture effects in Interior West USA mixed‐conifer forests. Journal of Ecology. 75(3): 65.
Last Modified: November 12, 2020