The diverse old-growth forests in Klamath region of northern California and southern Oregon provide valuable ecosystem services (e.g., maintaining watersheds, wildlife habitat, recreation), but may be vulnerable to a wide range of stressors, including invasive species, disrupted disturbance regimes, and climatic change. Yet our understanding of how forest structure in the Klamath region relates to the current physical environment is limited. Here we provide present-day benchmarks for old-growth forest structure across a climatic gradient ranging from coastal to dry interior sites. We established 16 large (1 ha) forest plots where all stems > 5 cm in diameter were identified to species and mapped. Climate across these sites was highly variable, with estimated actual evapotranspiration correlated to several basic measures of forest structure, including plot basal area, stem size-class inequality, tree species diversity and, to a lesser extent, tree species richness. Analyses of the spatial arrangement of stems indicated a high degree of non-uniformity, with 75% of plots showing significant stem clumping at small spatial scales (0 to 10 m). Downscaled predictions of future site water balance suggest changes will be dominated by rapidly increasing climatic water deficit (D, a biologically meaningful index of drought). While these plots give a picture of current conditions, continued monitoring of these stands is needed to describe forest dynamics and to detect forest responses to ongoing and future stressors.
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Vol. 89 • No. 2