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We assessed the influence of red alder on tree species composition, stand density, tree size distribution, tree mortality, and potential for producing large conifers, in 38-42 yr old riparian forests along 13 headwater streams in the Maybeso and Harris watersheds on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska. Red alder ranged from 0 to 53% of the total live basal area of the stands. Tree density, basal area of live and dead trees, and mean diameter of live conifers were not significantly related to the percent of alder as a proportion of total stand live basal area within these riparian forests. The mean diameter of the 100 largest conifers per hectare (the largest trees) was similar among different sites and appeared unrelated to the amount of alder in the stands. The mean diameter of dead conifers increased slightly with increasing proportion of red alder. Most dead trees were small and died standing. Red alder was much more concentrated immediately along stream margins (within 0-1 m distance from the stream bank vs. > 1 m). The presence of red alder did not inhibit the production of large-diameter conifers, and both alder and conifers provided small woody debris for fishless headwater streams in southeastern Alaska. Red alder is an important structural component of young-growth riparian stands.
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The role of red alder in riparian forest structure along headwater streams in southeastern Alaska