Date of Award

8-2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Major Professor

James Drake

Committee Members

Louis Gross, Taylor Feild, Nathan Sanders

Abstract

Disturbance in a forest’s canopy, whether caused by treefall, limbfall, landslide, or fire determines not only the distribution of well-lit patches at any given time, but also the ways in which the forest changes over time. In this dissertation, I use a 25 year record of treefall gap formation find a novel and highly patterned process of forest disturbance and regeneration, providing a local mechanism by examining the factors that influence the likelihood of treefall. I then develop a stochastic cellular automaton for disturbance and regeneration based on the analysis of this long term data set and illustrate the potential of this model for the prediction and detection of patterned forest dynamics in general. Finally, I investigate the spatial structure of a population of one of the most common gap colonist species in this forest, Didymopanax pittieri, and illustrate the effect of local aggregation of treefalls and on the population dynamics of D. pittieri in the process.

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