Various abiotic and biotic factors are known to affect tree size, including age, genetics, and environment. Knowledge of size variation within natural riparian tree populations has both ecological and restorative importance. We determined tree sizes, basal area densities, and spatial distributions of 5 Populus fremontii Wats. populations within the Rio Grande watershed in New Mexico. At each site 10 randomly spaced plots, perpendicular to the river and extending from the river to the end of the forest, were established. Diameter at breast height (DBH) and distance to the river were determined for 1803 trees within the 5 populations, and stand cover (measured as basal area [BA] per hectare) was determined for each population. Significant variation in tree size and basal area density existed among sites. Mean DBH per site ranged from 11.7 to 58.4 cm and differed significantly (P < 0.0001) among sites. Mean BA per hectare also varied significantly (P < 0.0001) among sites and ranged from 13.2 to 28.9 m2 ha−1. Spatial distribution of trees in relation to the river also differed among sites. Mean distance from the river ranged from 50 to 353 m and differed significantly (P < 0.0001) among sites. Tree size was both linearly and nonlinearly related to distance from the river, with models varying among sites. Patterns of distribution in these New Mexico P. fremontii populations may be influenced by differences in water availability across a site; trees farthest from water sources may experience greater water stress and, therefore, growth limitation. Increasing BA cover with increasing tree size indicated no real thinning of mature trees within a population. Recruitment and establishment of cottonwood seedlings and saplings was evident only at sites with newly formed floodplains. For these 5 populations tree size appeared to be affected by environmental factors.
Rowland, Diane L.; Biagini, Beth; and Evans, Ann S.
"Variability among five riparian cottonwood (Populus fremontii Wats.) populations: an examination of size, density, and spatial distribution,"
Western North American Naturalist: Vol. 60
, Article 4.
Available at: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/wnan/vol60/iss4/4