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Life History and Disturbance Response of Acer rubrum (red maple)
Family: Aceraceae
Guild: pioneer, spring-dispersed, moist-site tolerant
Functional Lifeform: medium-size deciduous tree
Ecological Role: common on a wide range of sites from mesic uplands to swampy lowlands; aggressively colonizes disturbed sites and also becomes established in a variety of understory conditions; responds rapidly to release
Lifespan, yrs (typical/max): 80/150
Shade Tolerance: tolerant
Height, m: 18-27
Canopy Tree: yes
Pollination Agent: wind
Seeding, yrs (begins/optimal/declines): 5/35/80
Mast Frequency, yrs: 2
New Cohorts Source: seeds or sprouts
Flowering Dates: early spring
Flowers/Cones Damaged by Frost: no
Seedfall Begins: late spring -- early summer
Seed Banking: 1 yr +
Cold Stratification Required: no
Seed Type/Dispersal Distance/Agent: winged/ to 200 m/ wind
Season of Germination: spring -- early summer
Seedling Rooting System: variable
Sprouting: stump sprouts and root suckers common
Establishment Seedbed Preferences:
Substrate: variable
Light: overstory shade
Moisture: moist required
Temperature: neutral
Disturbance response:
Fire: Red maple is favored when fire is suppressed and, in many of the forests where it occurs it has increased in dominance dramatically during the past decades. The fire interval for red maple is long (many decades to centuries) and low-intensity surface fires are typical. A thin-barked species, red maple is susceptible to damage, topkill and mortality from fire. Saplings are more susceptible than larger, thicker-barked individuals. Fire effects vary according to season of burning; red maple is most susceptible in late spring to early summer. Topkilled seedlings and trees sprout vigorously and rapidly from dormant buds on the root crown. Seedling establishment may occur from surviving trees onsite or from offsite seeds carried by wind. This species may assume increased prominence after a single (unrepeated) fire. Prescribed fires, particularly multiple fires, have been used to control red maple but as trees become larger and bark thickens, they become more resistant.
Air pollution: Red maple is tolerant to intermediate in sensitivity to sulphur dioxide and tolerant to ozone, but response varies among populations. Symptoms of foliar injury have been noted in areas of high ambient ozone. Seedlings of red maple exhibited reduced height growth under controlled fumigation with ozone.