the (usually) late successional stage of forest development -note 1. old-growth forests are defined in many ways; generally, structural characteristics used to describe old-growth forests include (a) live trees: number and minimum size of both seral and climax dominants, (b) canopy conditions: commonly including multilayering, (c) snags: minimum number of specific size, and (d) down logs and coarse woody debris: minimum tonnage and numbers of pieces of specific size -note 2. old-growth forests generally contain trees that are large for their species and site and sometimes decadent (overmature) with broken tops, often a variety of tree sizes, large snags and logs, and a developed and often patchy understory -note 3. stand age, although a useful indicator of old growth, is often considered less important than structure because (a) the rate of stand development depends more on environment and stand history than age alone, and (b) dominants are often multiaged -note 4. due to large differences in forest types, climate, site quality, and natural disturbance history (e.g., fire, wind, and disease and insect epidemics), old-growth forests vary extensively in tree size, age classes, presence and abundance of structural elements, stability, and presence of understory -note 5. the minimum area needed for an old-growth forest to be a functional ecological unit depends on the nature and management of surrounding areas; small areas often do not contain all old-growth elements -note 6. an old-growth forest is commonly perceived as an uncut, virgin forest with very little human-caused disturbance; some believe that the time taken for stands to develop old-growth structure can be shortened by silvicultural treatments aimed at producing the above characteristics -synonym primary forest -see mature, second-growth forest, virgin forest
Source: Dictionary of Forestry (1998) published by the Society of American Foresters, 5400 Grosvenor Lane, Bethesda, MD 20814-2198. Not for further reproduction.
Glossary Copyright: CAB International
Date of entry: 19/02/2009