Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Tree mortality, canopy turnover, and woody detritus in old cove forests of the southern Appalachians

January 1, 2005

A long-term study of tree mortality, canopy turnover, and coarse woody detritus inputs was conducted in cove forests of the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA. Seven old-growth stands were studied over a 10-yr period using 0.6–1.0 ha plots. Annual mortality of trees >10 cm dbh was 0.5–1.4% among stands (mean 0.7%). The highest mortality rate among canopy trees was exhibited by trees >80 cm dbh. An increase in mortality rate with canopy tree size was evident for two (Tsuga canadensis and Acer saccharum) of the three most abundant species in the forest. The increase in mortality with tree size had implications for canopy turnover and detritus input. Gap disturbance frequency was estimated at 0.008–0.019 forest area/yr, giving a return interval of ∼130 yr or less. Standing death was the most common mode of mortality (59%). Annual rates of snag formation were 1.4 snags/ha for trees >10 cm dbh and 0.4 snags/ha for trees >50 cm dbh. The density of large snags (>50 cm dbh) was 5 snags/ha. Snags accounted for 8% of the total standing tree basal area and 23% of the coarse woody detritus mass (total of 48 Mg/ ha). The mean annual rate of coarse woody detritus input was 3.0 Mg/ha. A decay rate constant was estimated at 0.07, yielding a detritus half-life of 10 yr. Although mean mortality rates and canopy turnover in old cove forests were moderate in comparison with other old forests of eastern North America, input and accumulation of coarse woody detritus were high for the region. This resulted, in part, from the relatively large sizes attained by canopy trees and the fact that larger trees tended to suffer higher mortality. In comparison to forests worldwide, rates of mortality, canopy gap formation, and decay of coarse woody detritus were intermediate.

Publication Year 2005
Title Tree mortality, canopy turnover, and woody detritus in old cove forests of the southern Appalachians
DOI 10.1890/04-0410
Authors Richard T. Busing
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecology
Index ID 70029108
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse