Forest Canopies: Form and Functional Relationships


Steven Jack

Document Type

Full Issue

Publication Date



Forest canopy structure is strongly influenced by stand density due to changing competitive interactions among the individual trees and in turn directly influences stemwood volume production. The structure and dynamics of forest canopies, particularly in relation to the production of stemwood, were examined in unmanaged, even-aged stands of two dissimilar tree species, Pinus contorta var. latifolia Engelm. and Abies lasiocarpa (Hook.) Nutt. The analysis of structure-production relationships was guided by a conceptual model which generated hypotheses and led to examination of assumptions incorporated in the model. Mean crown dimensions were related to stand density through a negative exponential function for both species, but because of differing shade­tolerances, mean crown size of lodgepole pine was affected more by increasing density than was mean crown size of subalpine fir. More importantly, examination of the model assumptions indicated that adequate characterization of canopy structure should account for the influence of both crown shyness and stand height. Stand density also influenced the amount and distribution of leaf area in these forest stands. The more plastic mean leaf area of lodgepole pine led to a constant leaf area index over a range of density and, thus, was consistent with conventional wisdom which assumes closed canopied forest stands support stable leaf area indices across a wide range of densities. The less plastic mean leaf area of subalpine fir, however, led to positive correlation between leaf area index and density. Changes in mean crown dimensions and mean leaf area influenced the production of stemwood volume such that large mean crown sizes were less efficient than small mean crown sizes. The decrease in efficiency was attributed to accumulation of large branch biomass in large crowns to support foliage far from the stem. Increased support costs were indicated by the increasing proportion of crown volume which was nonfoliated as mean crown size increased. The assumption that accumulated branch biomass was responsible for the observed declines in efficiency for forest trees was reinforced by a comparison of structure-production relationships for lodgepole pine and the annual Helianthus annuus L.


This item is a dissertation published by a student who attended Utah State University. Abstract can be accessed through the remote link. Fulltext not available online.

This document is currently not available here.