Canopy gap structure as an indicator of intact, old-growth temperate rainforests in the valdivian ecoregion

Álvaro G. Gutiérrez, Roberto O. Chávez, Ignacio Díaz-Hormazábal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Forest degradation continues to increase globally, threatening biodiversity and the survival of species. In this context, identifying intact, old-growth forest stands is both urgent and vital to ensure their existence and multiple contributions to society. Despite the global ecological importance of the Valdivian temperate rainforests, they are threatened by forest degradation resulting from constant and intense human use in the region. Identification of remnant intact forests in this region is urgent to global forest protection efforts. In this paper, we analyzed whether forests-canopy alterations due to logging produce a distinctive canopy gap structure (e.g., a gap area and a fraction of canopy gaps in the forest) that can be used to remotely distinguish intact from altered forests. We tested this question by comparing the canopy gap structure of 12 old-growth temperate rainforests in south-central Chile (39–40 S), with different levels of canopy alterations due to logging. At each stand, we obtained aerial or satellite very high spatial-resolution images that were automatically segmented using the Mean-Shift segmentation algorithm. We validated the results obtained remotely with ground data on the canopy gap structure. We found that, in the variables, canopy gap fraction, gap area frequency distribution, and mean gap area could be measured remotely with a high level of accuracy. Intact forests have a distinct canopy gap structure in comparison to forests with canopy alterations due to logging. Our results provided a fast, low-cost, and reliable method to obtain canopy gap structure indicators for mapping and monitoring intact forests in the Valdivian ecoregion. The method provided valuable information for managers interested in maintaining and restoring old-growth forest structures in these southern-temperate rainforests.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1183
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Forest degradation
  • Human-induced disturbances
  • Remote sensing
  • Treefall canopy gaps
  • Uneven-aged forest structure


Dive into the research topics of 'Canopy gap structure as an indicator of intact, old-growth temperate rainforests in the valdivian ecoregion'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this