Self-replacement after small-scale partial crown dieback in austral Nothofagus dombeyi forests affected by an extreme drought

María Laura Suarez, Francisco Lloret

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


© 2018, Canadian Science Publishing. All rights reserved. The spectrum of structural response in drought-induced mortality (degree of partial crown mortality) could play a key role in pervasive changes in plant composition, as individual openings could reset self-replacement dynamics or trigger shifts in vegetation. Here we capture the community pattern 17 years after a drought episode over a range of canopy responses in Nothofagus dombeyi forests. We applied a widespread demographic approach to address evidence of species shifts vs. self-replacement and to relate partial dieback to understory structure and composition. Assuming that the outcome of growth release of the understory components can be observed 17 years after canopy loss, this study reveals evidence of self-replacement in N. dombeyi forests heavily affected by drought. Alternatively, when the co-dominant species A. chilensis is widely present in the understory and large gaps are opened, a compositional shift may be possible, with a potential change in forest functionality. Individual partial openings do not favor more shrubby communities or a shift toward a new community. Thus, partial crown dieback contributes to self-replacement mechanisms by hampering strong growth release in understory shrubs, as evident in plots with high mortality, and by facilitating the growth of dominant tree species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)412-420
JournalCanadian Journal of Forest Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Community trend
  • Mixed forest
  • Patagonia
  • Understory structure
  • Vegetation shifts


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