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Canopy Dieback and Successional Processes in Pacific Forests

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Title: Canopy Dieback and Successional Processes in Pacific Forests
Authors: Mueller-Dombois, Dieter
Issue Date: Oct 1983
Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press
Citation: Mueller-Dombois D. 1983. Canopy dieback and successional processes in Pacific forests. Pac Sci 37(4): 317-325.
Abstract: Massive tree dieback has occurred periodically in the Hawaiian
montane rain forest. The species mainly involved is Metrosideros polymorpha,
which is the prevailing upper canopy tree species throughout most of this forest
on all high Hawaiian islands. The canopy dieback occurs in stands over the
entire spectrum of sites, from well-drained lava flows over nutritionally rich
volcanic ash to permanently wet bogs with toxic soils. A biotic agent could
not be found to cause this dieback. Five main dieback patterns have been
recognized, and all are site-specific. These patterns suggest certain causal
mechanisms, but they explain only a fraction of the dieback syndrome. A
number of additional facts were established which have led to a new dieback
theory involving a chain-reaction process: (1) cohort senescing as a predisposing
factor; (2) a dieback trigger, which can be either internal (a species characteristic)
or external (a fluctuating and recurring site-specific perturbation), and
(3) a dieback hastening (biotic agents) or stalling mechanism. It is believed that
the dieback phenomenon is not restricted to Hawaii but occurs also in other,
functionally similar Pacific forests.
A corollary to the Hawaiian dieback etiology is a new succession theory,
which explains the temporally recurring dieback as a pattern and process
sequence in primary succession. The larger dieback patterns are considered a
consequence of catastrophic disturbances in the past, such as lava flows,
ash blanket deposits, or landslides, which gave rise to large cohorts. Canopy
dieback of these large cohorts during their senescing stage then gives rise to
new cohorts. However, these become successively smaller and more patchy
with each dieback cycle. Concomitantly with the dieback cycles a turnover
of successional races or ecotypes appears to occur within the Metrosideros
polymorpha species complex. This may allow us to determine pioneer, seral,
and near-climax races within this species complex.
ISSN: 0030-8870
Appears in Collections:Pacific Science Volume 37, Number 4, 1983
Mueller-Dombois, Dieter

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