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Forest dynamics in Westland, New Zealand: the importance of large, infrequent

earthquake-induced disturbance- Summary

1. Introduction
This article was written by the scientists Andrew Wells, Richard P. Duncan and Glenn H.
Stewart, who were studying the structure and dynamics of trees by studying disturbances
in forest in two study areas in Westland New Zealand.
Going into the study the scientists already knew that large disturbances can initiate
regeneration of many species of trees and that many disturbances have occurred
synchronously in a few brief episodes over the last 650 years over the region of Western
New Zealand. The reason the scientists were studying large disturbances was because the
disturbances initiate the regeneration of many species of trees. This pertained to the study
areas of Western New Zealand because it was a key factored in forming the major canopy
of trees in the region. The type of disturbances they were looking for were tree falls,
erosion, and sedimentation events. If the trees had undergone any of these disturbances
the trees would have identifiable cohorts.
The scientist chose this subject to study and decided to do the research because they
wanted to see the relevance of large disturbances in forest and how these disturbances
affected the forest where they occurred and to quantify the importance of these large,
infrequent disturbances in structuring the forests of the New Zealand region. The goal of
this study was to gather information and discover how mass disturbances in forests affect
tree growth over a long period of time.
The scientists did not have a hypothesis but they were trying to asses the importance of
large, infrequent earthquakes relative to other forms of disturbances and how they
influence forests.

The study was relevant to science because it showed that large disturbances play a major
role in how forests are shaped and evolved in their respected biomes. Their study was of
value to society because it increased understanding of forest functions and how different
species of trees adapt or perish after undergoing a disaster or large disturbance.
2. Materials and Methods
The scientists conducted their experiments by gathering information by the use of land
surface mapping that took aerial photographs and extensive inspection of the areas of the
field of study. They also used forest stand mapping by subdividing different areas of the
same surfaces that had formed at different times.
The scientists used the trees ages to reconstruct the history, establishment and past
disturbances. They determined the age of the trees by counting the annual rings of all
trees, excluding one species of tree that did not have visible rings. In order to count each
tree's age the scientists used a stereo microscope to count the rings of the trees and
determine each individual tree's age. There was approximately 10% of the tree's ages
the scientists were unable to determine due to trees either succumbing to decay or
missing segments of the ring needed to count their age. The scientists decided to exclude
theses trees form the study.
3. Results
During the study, the scientists found there were many multiple results that were
dependent on the different areas of study. There was a significant portion of the study
areas the scientist were unable to conduct their experiments. The experimental data the
scientist gathered showed numeric measurements that "most of the study (1207 ha or
86%) comprised of surfaces that had been disturbed by erosion or sedimentation
(abbreviated to ES) within the last 650 years" (Wells, Duncan, & Stewart, 2001). Almost

all of the study area showed an occurring pattern of recent surfaces that had formed by
single catastrophic ES events.
During the study the scientist did not find anything surprising or unexpected, their data
showed what they were trying to prove and did not present anything exciting.
4. Discussion
After gathering the data the scientist concluded that the results meant that the forest study
areas in Westland New Zealand had undergone four severe disturbances where over 50%
of the forest were first generation trees established after a major ES event and the present
forest pattern and landscape in Westland New Zealand was determined by the history of
these larger, severe and relatively infrequent episodes of earthquake-triggered
disturbances. Based on this information the scientist were able to show the importance of
large, infrequent earthquakes relative to other forms of disturbances in influencing forest
growth and structure.
A limitation of the scientists study was the estimate of earthquake disturbance rate was
likely to be low, this was because the scientists study sites did not represent the catchment
in the environment in which they conducted their experiment. The scientists could have
also used and tested trees in a broader area of study in their experiment.

Wells, A., Duncan, R. P., & Stewart, G. H. (2001). Forest dynamics in Welstland, New
Zealand: The importance of large, infrequent earthquake-induced
disturbance. Jornal of Ecology, 89, 1006-1018.