Tree species size distribution of temperate vs. tropical

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dbhguru
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Re: Tree species size distribution of temperate vs. tropical

Post by dbhguru » Mon Feb 09, 2015 7:30 pm

Great work and very interesting information. We all thank you.

Although, it may not affect the trends that you've plotted, just to emphasize what we often discuss on the BBS, the numbers on tree heights coming from otherwise authoritative tree manuals are seldom reliable. The authors, themselves, have little or no experience measuring trees, and as a consequence, have to turn to other sources. Here's some numbers out of Sibley's guide with my comments

Species Max ft according to Sibley Evaluation

Shuumard oak 190 Extremely unlikely
Scarlet oak 181 Extremely unlikely
Southern rek oak 135 Can get a little taller
Cherrybark oak 124 Can get considerably taller
Eastern black oak 131 Can exceed 140
Northern red oak 165 That's pushing it
Eastern white oak 182 Absolutely not
Swamp white oak 108 Can get taller
Burr oak 165 None that we know of
Chestnut oak 102 Can get considerably taller
Eastern cottonwood 170 Too high by about 15 feet
American elm 160 None that we know of
Red maple 179 An extreme mis-measurement (the tree was 119 feet)
Sugar maple 138 Understated by 10 to 15 feet
White ash 152 Approaches 170 in the Smokies
White pine 220 Historically, maybe. None today exceed 200. at 189 feet, the Boogerman is our tallest
Tulip tree 200 Close, but we're not there yet Will's climb sets the bar at 191.9 feet.
E. hemlock 159 Will Blozan climbed and tape drop measurer the Usis hemlock to 173 feet

Sibley wasn't able to distinguish reliable sources from unreliable ones. I recognize some of our data and I also recognize data from wholly unreliable sources.

One of the long run objectives of NTS is to develop a reliable list of species maximums. Jess Riddle's and Matt Markworth's lists, and others complied by members of the Native Tree Society are the only reliable ones for eastern species. American Forests is now on board and we'll eventually have a database with them.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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gjschmidt
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Re: Tree species size distribution of temperate vs. tropical

Post by gjschmidt » Mon Feb 09, 2015 9:41 pm

These numbers almost seem random (scarlet oak if its dry habitat is any clue should not even rank near the top among oaks). The "typical" height range usually is a little more consistent with the rank of the stature, but even these have probably lost their connection with reality, as button bush is listed as reaching 15 m (50 ft) without qualification that it is an extreme value.
Greg Schmidt

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dbhguru
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Re: Tree species size distribution of temperate vs. tropical

Post by dbhguru » Tue Feb 10, 2015 12:34 pm

Yes, there is a random aspect to Sibley's numbers. I think we can attribute that to Internet fishing. Most modern authors likely follow this strategy. Older authors had to obtain their numbers from a limited number of sources or spend a lifetime researching. As a for instance of what has been available, Silvics of North America is an excellent source of information on most topics covered - truly authoritative. However, Silvics is coauthored. Some authors are "pretty darn good" on the dimensional maximums quoted and others are "pretty darn bad". Anyone using Silvics will be on target for a fair number of species, but miss the boat completely on others. Here is an example of the latter.
Growth and Yield- Eastern cottonwood is one of the tallest species east of the Rocky Mountains. Heights of 53 to 58 in (175 to 190 ft) and diameters of 120 to 180 cm (48 to 72 in) have been reported (17), as have age 35 stand volumes exceeding 420.0 m3/ha (30,000 fbm/acre) of sawed lumber (5,10,14,22).
A 190-foot eastern cottonwood? Not bloody likely. Anyone who understands the structural features of the species recognizes that it is a race betwen some phenomenal growth rates versus weak wood that breaks frequently in storms. Also, the tree's shape invites mis-measurement and tape and clinometer users have willingly and repeatedly obliged us. This topic merits a whole separate conversation, which I'lll postpone for now.

I've noticed that quite a few modern authors augment their sources with state champion tree lists and numbers from past National Registers. Of course, these numbers do not reflect individual dimensional maximums, just point maximums - a detail apparently not widely understood by the authors. Still other authors simply plagiarize from one or two competitive sources with no admissions are apologies. I've spotted the pattern more than once. What is clear to me is that none, from the the amateurs up through the professionals, have the faintest idea as to the validity of their sources. Who's to know if cited data originally came from fortune cookies or out of crackerjack boxes.

Popular articles including information that we may regard as a kind of cute tree trivia has created a veritable ocean of dimensional mis-information. For the general public, challenged to count beyond a hundred, it is just filler stuff included to make an article or tree guide appear complete. No fortunes gained or lost. The headache happens when we pass from tree trivia to serious research. Anyone wanting to do a scientific investigation that includes valid tree dimensional maximums is faced with an insurmountable problem. This is a situation that American Forests and the Native Tree Society, working as a team, are committed to solving. American Forests has the standing and clout and through the new National Cadre, we can make real progress.

Back to scientific research. Here is a for instance that would face a researcher. Those of us in the know have long recognized the Great Smoky Mountains to be the gold standard for maximum tree heights achieved for several dozen eastern species. We have found no other place in the East to compete with the Smokies. Thanks to Will Blozan who actually climbed many of the absolute tallest trees of species like the eastern hemlock (173 ft), the white pine (188.9), and the tulip tree (191.9), we have the best data that we've ever had on species maximums. We also have lots of LIDAR information that allows Will and associates to target new areas for ground-truthing. Bottom line is that the Smokies continue to reign supreme. Yet back in the 1990s, the NPS described Congaree NP as having the highest canopy of any eastern deciduous forest. I won't supply too many details, but in brief: a professor of considerable reputation, assisted by a couple others with experience, measured many of Congaree's champions using tape and clinometer. If they measured a single tree correctly, I'm unaware of it. But as you can guess, nobody in Congaree's management felt qualified to challenge the professor's measurements. He carried impressive academic credentials and he had generously volunteered his time. It was then, and still is, a touchy situation. The mission is not to discredit an honest effort to contribute, but neither is it to perpetuate mis-measurements. Touchy.

Once the Congaree numbers were published and the NPS gave them the thumbs up, the damage was not reversible. As a consequence, today we see the perpetuation of numbers for the mis-measured trees along side numbers from actual tree climbs and tape drop done by the best of the best.

Congaree is unquestionably a superlative tree-growing environment, deserving of special recognition and all our respect. It is what it is and should be given credit for exactly that. It shouldn't be mis-characterized. But neither should other otherwise important locations. Big Oak Tree State Park in Missouri comes to mind. It has been and will continue to be the role of NTS to set the record straight in these situations.

As for some final observations, first, future descriptions of species dimensional maximums should go further than supplying a single number - virtually worthless acquiescence to tradition. Her is an example. The eastern cottonwood is a tall tree north and south, but so far, we have documented heights above 140 feet in only a few places and they haven't occurred north of about 40 or 41 degrees latitude. Information on where a species performs best should be worked into the mix. How much regional information should be given, well, that's something to discuss. As to my next observation, sources that are perennially inaccurate or misleading need to be challenged, however it is done - preferably with diplomacy. As an example, the state level forestry extension services are among the biggest offenders in perpetuating misleading maximum tree dimension information. I'm unsure of why these sources are so unreliable, but I expect it has to do with the expectations of the authors. The information presented may well reflect a silvicultural perspective of what they think the species can achieve within a harvest cycle of say 60 years. Alternatively, it may reflect what the authors believes the public will commonly encounter from roadways. However, for most of the sources, there is a random aspect similar to what you observe with the Sibley numbers. I've seen a streak of understated maximums followed by a highly inflated one. Go figure. Whatever the explanations, they need to clean up their acts.

We have our work cut out for us. So far we haven't been well organized in channeling our information to feed a single source. At present Matt Markworth and Jess Riddle have the most complete accountings for eastern species maximums. My present conviction is that these are the sources we should get behind. I think the ball is mostly now in Matt court. If we can channel the data to Mitch Galehouse's database through Excel spreadsheet imports, a new day will have dawned. Eventually, we would hope to port our data over to American Forests.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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Will Blozan
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Re: Tree species size distribution of temperate vs. tropical

Post by Will Blozan » Tue Feb 10, 2015 3:54 pm

gjschmidt wrote:These numbers almost seem random (scarlet oak if its dry habitat is any clue should not even rank near the top among oaks). The "typical" height range usually is a little more consistent with the rank of the stature, but even these have probably lost their connection with reality, as button bush is listed as reaching 15 m (50 ft) without qualification that it is an extreme value.
The 141 foot scarlet oak I climbed and tape-dropped was pretty darn impressive...

Oh, and Bob- I don't think we have ever broken 130' on s. red oak.

Will

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Rand
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Re: Tree species size distribution of temperate vs. tropical

Post by Rand » Fri Feb 13, 2015 11:15 am

Bob,

I just had an odd thought about historical white pine heights in New England. I was watching a nature documentary about how spawning salmon and herring help fertilize the forests of the Pacific NW. The showed how the nitrogen isotope ratios reflect marine origin even miles inland because of predator scat. I then remembered the efforts in New England to remove the many, many dams that blocked the migration/nearly extirpated similar species on the atlantic coast. Putting the two together, it occurred to me that a major source of fertilizer has been absent from this region for 150+ years. Have you ever considered how this might affect the maximum height/girth of the second growth trees?

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Don
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Re: Tree species size distribution of temperate vs. tropical

Post by Don » Fri Feb 13, 2015 3:04 pm

Rand-
Even more impacting is the role in Alaskan forests played by bears, as they consume the spawning salmon and transport the consumed salmon into the forest where their 'void' adds to the diversity of soil 'amendments'.
Not unlike the 'triumvirate' of Clark's Nutcrackers, whitebark pine cones, and bears in the Colorado Rockies; or Abert Squirrels, truffles, and ponderosa pines on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon; or 'historic white pine heights in New England?
-Don
Don Bertolette - President/Moderator, WNTS BBS
Restoration Forester (Retired)
Science Center
Grand Canyon National Park

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View my Alaska Big Tree List Webpage at:
http://www.akbigtreelist.org

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gjschmidt
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Re: Tree species size distribution of temperate vs. tropical

Post by gjschmidt » Fri Mar 27, 2015 6:07 pm

I've finally finished my tree diversity maps using BONAP data. I have two size classes: small trees and medium to large trees. In these maps it is apparent that the most tree diversity on a per unit land area is in Alabama and the Florida panhandle. But in terms of small trees, tropical Florida takes first place.
Medium to large tree (>15 m tall) species diversity
Medium to large tree (>15 m tall) species diversity
t_3hab13_MediumLargeTrees.jpg (53.28 KiB) Viewed 506 times
Small tree (5-15 m tall) species diversity
Small tree (5-15 m tall) species diversity
t_3hab12_SmallTrees.jpg (54.13 KiB) Viewed 506 times
For more plant geography maps and to see enlarged versions of the above map, use link below.

http://bonap.org/2015_SpecialtyMaps/Den ... 02015.html
Greg Schmidt

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