Article Title

Composition, Structure, and Disturbance History of Old-Growth and Second-Growth Forests in Adirondack Park, New York


Susy ZieglerFollow

Journal Title/Source

Physical Geography

Publication Date




Issue (if applicable)


Page Numbers


Document Type

Journal Article


Earth, Environmental and Geographical Sciences


Old-growth forests with 300- to 400-year-old trees are uncommon in the eastern United States, but forests that regenerated after anthropogenic disturbance are widespread. I compared patterns of species composition, size structure, and disturbance in old-growth, hemlock-dominated forests with those characteristics of post-fire, second-growth forests in the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York to document the persistence of historical events. The species in the old-growth canopy were shade-tolerant, and the canopy species of the 90-year-old secondary forests were shade-tolerant or shade-intolerant, depending on the stand. The old-growth forests had more larger stems and fewer smaller stems per 0.1 ha than the second-growth forests. From tree-ring widths I reconstructed the disturbance chronology of the stands. The decadal rate of canopy turnover for the 50-yr. period from 1930 to 1979 in old growth (3.1-4.5%) was not significantly different from the disturbance rate in second-growth forest (3.5-4.1%). The composition and structure of old growth were distinctive, but disturbance rates in old growth were similar to patterns in nearby second-growth forest in spite of differences in stand age and past human activity. Together the old growth and the unmanaged secondary forests enhance landscape diversity, and an analysis of natural variability in these forests provides baseline information for conservation efforts elsewhere.