Sustainable management, earthquake disturbances, and transient dynamics

Modelling timber harvesting impacts in mixed-species forests

Georges Kunstler*, Robert B. Allen, David A. Coomes, Charles D. Canham, Elaine F. Wright

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)


Context: There is strong interest in sustainable forest management systems that preserve characteristics of forests close to naturalness. Assessing the effectiveness of these systems is difficult because defining "natural" baselines from which impacts are estimated is challenging and because the influence of harvesting can have complex interactions with major natural disturbances. Aims: We used SORTIE/NZ, an individual tree-based forest dynamics model, to understand how harvesting and earthquake disturbance affect the dynamics of a New Zealand podocarp-angiosperm forest. Methods: Having parameterized SORTIE/NZ with extensive field data, we ran simulations for three natural dynamics scenarios (no disturbance and two earthquake scenarios) and then added podocarp harvesting scenario to each of these. Results: Simulations suggest that this forest is experiencing transient dynamics, with a natural rise in the dominance of one species of slow-growing podocarp with and without earthquake. Harvesting podocarps strongly affected its increase in basal area. Conclusion: Our results indicate that transient dynamics may occur in mixed podocarp forests and major disturbances may have complex interactions with management. Evaluating management impacts without accounting for these complex dynamics may be misleading. Models make predictions about transient trajectories that may help to evaluate these impacts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-298
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Forest Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2013


  • Earthquake
  • Harvesting
  • Individual-based model
  • Rare major disturbance
  • Transient dynamics

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