Historical range of variability (HRV) in live and dead wood biomass: a regional-scale simulation study


The historical range of variability (HRV) in landscape structure and composition created by natural disturbance can serve as a general guide for evaluating ecological conditions of managed landscapes. HRV approaches to evaluating landscapes have been based on age-classes or developmental stages, which may obscure variation in live and dead stand structure. Developing the HRV of stand structural characteristics would improve the ecological resolution of this coarse-filter approach to ecosystem assessment. We investigated HRV in live and dead wood biomass in the regional landscape of the Oregon Coast Range by integrating stand-level biomass models and a spatially explicit fire simulation model. We simulated historical landscapes of the region for 1000 years under pre-Euro-American settlement fire regimes and calculated biomass as a function of disturbance history. The simulation showed that live and dead wood biomass historically varied widely in time and space. The majority of the forests historically contained 500–700 Mg·ha–1 (50–70 kg·m–2) of live wood and 50–200 Mg·ha–1 (5–20 kg·m–2) of dead wood. The current distributions are more concentrated in much smaller amounts for both biomass types. Although restoring the HRV of forest structure is not necessarily a management goal for most landowners and managing agencies, departure from the reference condition can provide relative measure to evaluate habitat conditions for managers seeking to use forest structure as a means to maintain or restore ecosystem and species diversity.

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