University of Oulu

Kulha, N., Pasanen, L., Holmström, L. et al. Ecosystems (2019) 22: 709.

At what scales and why does forest structure vary in naturally dynamic boreal forests? : an analysis of forest landscapes on two continents

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Author: Kulha, Niko1; Pasanen, Leena2; Holmström, Lasse2;
Organizations: 1Department of Forest Sciences, University of Helsinki
2Research Unit of Mathematical Sciences, University of Oulu
3Canadian Forest Service, Laurentian Forestry Centre
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 3.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2018
Publish Date: 2019-09-11


Identifying the scales of variation in forest structures and the underlying processes are fundamental for understanding forest dynamics. Here, we studied these scale-dependencies in forest structure in naturally dynamic boreal forests on two continents. We identified the spatial scales at which forest structures varied, and analyzed how the scales of variation and the underlying drivers differed among the regions and at particular scales. We studied three 2 km × 2 km landscapes in northeastern Finland and two in eastern Canada. We estimated canopy cover in contiguous 0.1-ha cells from aerial photographs and used scale-derivative analysis to identify characteristic scales of variation in the canopy cover data. We analyzed the patterns of variation at these scales using Bayesian scale space analysis. We identified structural variation at three spatial scales in each landscape. Among landscapes, the largest scale of variation showed the greatest variability (20.1–321.4 ha), related to topography, soil variability, and long-term disturbance history. Superimposed on this large-scale variation, forest structure varied at similar scales (1.3–2.8 ha) in all landscapes. This variation correlated with recent disturbances, soil variability, and topographic position. We also detected intense variation at the smallest scale analyzed (0.1 ha, grain of our data), partly driven by recent disturbances. The distinct scales of variation indicated hierarchical structure in the landscapes studied. Except for the large-scale variation, these scales were remarkably similar among the landscapes. This suggests that boreal forests may display characteristic scales of variation that occur somewhat independent of the tree species characteristics or the disturbance regime.

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Series: Ecosystems
ISSN: 1432-9840
ISSN-E: 1435-0629
ISSN-L: 1432-9840
Volume: 22
Issue: 4
Pages: 709 - 724
DOI: 10.1007/s10021-018-0297-2
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: The project was funded by the Academy of Finland (Project Nos. 252629, 276022), Emil Aaltonen Foundation, and the University of Helsinki Funds.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 276022
Detailed Information: 276022 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2018 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature. This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Ecosystems. The final authenticated version is available online at: