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Keywords:

  • age structure;
  • dendroecology;
  • disturbance history;
  • Melia azederach ;
  • Meliaceae;
  • spatial statistics;
  • Thailand;
  • tropical forest

Abstract

Disturbances play an important role in forest dynamics across the globe. Researchers have mainly focused on the temporal context of disturbances, but have largely ignored the spatial patterns of tree recruitment they create. Geostatistical tools enable the analysis of spatial patterns and variability in tropical forest disturbance histories. Here, we examine the potential of combining dendroecological analysis and spatial statistics to reconstruct the disturbance history of a seasonal dry evergreen tropical forest plot at the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary (HKK), western Thailand. We used tree-ring-derived age estimates for 70 individuals of the shade-intolerant pioneer species Melia azederach (Meliaceae) and tree locations across a 316-ha study plot to identify the timing and spatial extent of past disturbances. Although the age distribution for Melia suggested that regeneration had been continuous over the past 60 yr, spatial analyses (mark correlation function and kriging) demonstrated the presence of three spatially discrete age cohorts. Two of these cohorts suggested a severe disturbance ~20 yr before present. A third cohort appears to have established ~50 years ago. Using historical records, we conclude that fire disturbance is the most likely disturbance factor affecting HKK. Nevertheless, we do not rule out other disturbance factors. The combined application of tree-ring analysis and spatial statistics as applied in this study could be readily applied to reconstruct disturbance histories in other tropical regions where tree species with annual growth rings are present.