In 1996 and 1997 we examined the effects of typhoon disturbance on the understory light environment and sapling dynamics of the Fu-shan Experimental Forest, a subtropical rain forest in northeastern Taiwan. Mean understory light levels were approximately 30% of those in the open immediately following the two 1996 typhoons which affected the forest, yet in 1997, following two more typhoons, mean understory light levels were 10%-20% of those in the open. The decline of understory light levels to those present prior to the typhoons was more rapid in 1996 than in 1997, even though the two typhoons in 1996 were more intense than those in 1997. This difference might be the result of the timing of the typhoons. In 1996 the typhoons occurred earlier in the growing season, before August 1 rather than the middle and end of August in 1997. The regular defoliation caused by the frequent typhoons that impact Fu-shan (average of 1.4 per year) and the low stature of the forest (mean canopy height of 10.6m), results in much higher light levels beneath the canopy (9%-30% of levels in the open) than those found in most tropical and temperate forests. As a result, understory light levels are not limiting the distribution of canopy tree saplings within the forest and there is no evidence that canopy gaps play an important role in canopy tree regeneration within the Fushan Experiment Forest. This is in contrast with the pattern reported for some tropical forests. With frequent typhoons impacting northeastern Taiwan, the forests of this region are perpetually recovering from wind disturbances.
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