Abstract. Tree size and age structures, treefall and canopy gap characteristics, and regeneration responses to treefalls were compared for three stands of old-growth beech (Nothofagus) forest dominated by N. fusca and N. menziesii on the South Island, New Zealand. Treefall gaps (up to 1000 m2) were most often caused by standing trees killed by drought and/or insect attack, or by trees snapped by wind. The causes of gap formation and the size and age distributions of treefall gaps varied between localities because of spatial and temporal differences in the histories of disturbance. At Fergies Bush where drought-related dieback had produced many large gaps with standing dead trees, gaps were generally young. Conversely, at Station Creek, small, old gaps formed by bolesnap dominated the disturbance regime. At Rough Creek, gaps of all ages and sizes were found along with an almost complete fern cover, and abundant shrubs and occasional subcanopy hardwood trees.
Although overall patterns of regeneration were unrelated to differences in gap size, the relative abundance of N. fusca and N. menziesii varied between localities according to the seemingly minor differences in forest structure and disturbance history described above. Interpretations of regeneration response to gap parameters, therefore, need to account for differences in disturbance history between sites. Differences in the disturbance history between localities will also influence rates of gap closure, and because closure rates are used to estimate forest turnover times, meaningful comparisons of disturbance regimes for different forest types can only be made if this intersite variability is addressed.