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Numerous bamboos are known to form extensive single-species stands, including species in the United States. Formerly prominent in the southeastern US, canebrakes are dense stands of the bamboos collectively called "cane" [Arundinaria (Michx)]. Canebrakes are now a critically endangered component of the bottomland hardwood forest ecosystem. Cane still occurs in its historic range, primarily in small remnant patches. A poor understanding of the ecological processes that generated large canebrakes limits their restoration and management. We hypothesize that cane's spreading clonal structure enables these bamboos to persist beneath a forest canopy and then respond rapidly to large-scale wind disturbances. We quantified patterns of clonal growth in one cane species, "giant cane" [Arundinaria gigantea (Walt.) Muhl.], in a very large tornado-generated canopy gap and in surrounding bottomland hardwood forest in Louisiana. We tested these four hypotheses over a 12-month study period in the large canopy gap: (1) production of new culms should be greater, (2) clonal expansion should be greater, (3) culm damage rate should be reduced, and (4) culm size should be reduced compared to giant cane stands under forest canopy. We found that new culm production in tornado-blowdown plots was twice that in forest plots. Accordingly, culms were younger on average in the tornado blowdown than under forest. Rate of clonal expansion was similar between the two environments, suggesting clonal spread was not disturbance-dependent. With fewer branch-fall impacts, culms in the tornado blowdown were less often damaged. Culms were smaller in tornado-blowdown plots than in forest plots. Giant cane's clonal plasticity should enable it to persist in old-growth bottomland forests by responding to local light conditions. Genets should increase culm production in small gaps and senesce as gaps fill in. Giant cane stands could thereby shift location over time. Wind disturbance that opens forest canopy should trigger redevelopment of denser stands that could merge with other expanding stands into expansive canebrakes. Giant cane's clonal ecology may be a useful model for understanding spreading bamboos and other forest-growing clonal perennials. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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Forest Ecology and Management

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