At What Scales and Why Does Forest Structure Vary in Naturally Dynamic Boreal Forests? An Analysis of Forest Landscapes on Two Continents

Niko Aleksi Kulha, Leena Pasanen, Lasse Holmström, Louis de Grandpre, Timo Tapio Kuuluvainen, Tuomas Aakala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Identifying the scales of variation in forest structures and the underlying processes are fundamental for understanding forest dynamics. Here, we studied these scale-dependencies in forest structure in naturally dynamic boreal forests on two continents. We identified the spatial scales at which forest structures varied, and analyzed how the scales of variation and the underlying drivers differed among the regions and at particular scales. We studied three 2kmx2km landscapes in northeastern Finland and two in eastern Canada. We estimated canopy cover in contiguous 0.1-ha cells from aerial photographs and used scale-derivative analysis to identify characteristic scales of variation in the canopy cover data. We analyzed the patterns of variation at these scales using Bayesian scale space analysis. We identified structural variation at three spatial scales in each landscape. Among landscapes, the largest scale of variation showed the greatest variability (20.1-321.4ha), related to topography, soil variability, and long-term disturbance history. Superimposed on this large-scale variation, forest structure varied at similar scales (1.3-2.8ha) in all landscapes. This variation correlated with recent disturbances, soil variability, and topographic position. We also detected intense variation at the smallest scale analyzed (0.1ha, grain of our data), partly driven by recent disturbances. The distinct scales of variation indicated hierarchical structure in the landscapes studied. Except for the large-scale variation, these scales were remarkably similar among the landscapes. This suggests that boreal forests may display characteristic scales of variation that occur somewhat independent of the tree species characteristics or the disturbance regime.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)709-724
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 4112 Forestry
  • forest dynamics
  • Canopy cover
  • aerial photography
  • bayesian inference
  • eastern Canada
  • northern Fennoscandia
  • cap dynamics
  • black spruce
  • fire history
  • tree
  • stands
  • productivity
  • growth
  • patterns
  • regeneration
  • fennoscandia

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