Old-growth forests of Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii Parry ex. Engelm.) and subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa (Hook.) Nutt.) dominate much of the landscape of the Rocky Mountains. We characterized the structure, biomass and production of 18 old-growth (200-450-year-old) spruce/fir forests in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, as well as the stand-level supply and use of light and nitrogen. Stands were chosen to span a broad range of elevation, aspect, and topography. Aboveground tree biomass in these old-growth forests averaged 253 Mg/ha (range 130-488 Mg/ha), with aboveground net primary production of 3700 kg ha-1 yr-1 (range from 2700 to 5200 kg ha-1 yr-1). Within stands, trees >35 cm in diameter accounted for 70% of aboveground biomass, but trees <35 cm contributed 70% of the production of woody biomass. Differences in slope and aspect among sites resulted in a range of incoming light from 58 to 74 TJ ha-1 yr-1, and tree canopies intercepted an average of 71% of incoming light (range 50-90%). Aboveground net primary production (ANPP) of trees did not relate to the supply of light or N, but ANPP correlated strongly with the amount of light and N used (r2 = 0.45-0.54, P < 0.01). Uptake of 1 kg of N was associated with about 260 kg of ANPP, and one TJ of intercepted shortwave radiation produced about 78 kg of ANPP. Across these old-growth stands, stands with greater biomass showed higher rates of both ANPP and resource use; variation in aboveground biomass was associated with 24% of the variation in N use (P = 0.04), 44% of the light use (P = 0.003), and 45% of the ANPP (P = 0.002). ?? 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Additional publication details
Structure, production and resource use in some old-growth spruce/fir forests in the front range of the Rocky Mountains, USA