Skip to page content
USDA Forest Service

Research & Development Treesearch

Treesearch Home
About Treesearch
Contact Us
Research & Development
Forest Products Lab
International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Pacific Northwest
Pacific Southwest
Rocky Mountain
Southern Research Station
Help - We Participate  Government Made Easy

Global Forest Information Service

US Forest Service
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, D.C.

(202) 205-8333

You are here: Home / Search / Publication Information
Bookmark and Share

Publication Information

View PDF (615 KB bytes)

Title: Interpreting Recruitment Limitation in Forests

Author: Clark, J.S.; Beckage, B.; Camill, P.; Cleveland, B.; HilleRisLambers, J.; Lichter, J.; McLachlan, J.; Mohan, J.; Wyckoff, P.;

Date: 1999

Source: kmerican Journal of Botany 86(l): l-16. 1999.

Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication

Description: Studies of tree recruitment are many, but they provide few general insights into the role of recruitment limitation for population dynamics. That role depends on the vital rates (transitions) from seed production to sapling stages and on overall population growth. To determine the state of our understanding of recruitment limitation we examined how well we can estimate parameters corresponding to these vital rates. Our two-part analysis consists of (1) a survey of published literature to determine the spatial and temporal scale of sampling that is basis for parameter estimates, and (2) an analysis of extensive data sets to evaluate sampling intensity found in the literature. We find that published studies focus on fine spatial scales, emphasizing large numbers of small samples within a single stand, and tend not to sample multiple stands or variability across landscapes. Where multiple stands are sampled, sampling is often inconsistent. Sampling of seed rain, seed banks, and seedlings typically span 1 yr and rarely last 5 yr. Most studies of seeding establishment and growth consider effects of a single variable and a single life history stage. By examining how parameter estimates are affected by the spatial and temporal extent of sampling we find that few published studies are sufficiently extensive to capture the variability in recruitment stages. Early recruitment stages are especially variable and require samples across multiple years and multiple stands. Ironically, the longest duration data sets are used to estimate mortality rates, which are less variable (in time) than are early life history stages. Because variables that affect recruitment rates interact, studies of these interactions are needed to assess their full impacts. We conclude that greater attention to spatially extensive and longer duration sampling for early life history stages is needed to assess the role of recruitment limitation in forests.

Keywords: dispersal, establishment, fecundity, forest dynamics, mortality, population growth, seed rain

Publication Notes:

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
  • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication. (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)



Clark, J.S.; Beckage, B.; Camill, P.; Cleveland, B.; HilleRisLambers, J.; Lichter, J.; McLachlan, J.; Mohan, J.; Wyckoff, P. 1999. Interpreting Recruitment Limitation in Forests. kmerican Journal of Botany 86(l): l-16. 1999.


 [ Get Acrobat ]  Get the latest version of the Adobe Acrobat reader or Acrobat Reader for Windows with Search and Accessibility

USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.