This reseach analyzes patch development and determines tree spatial patterns along the lower mixed-conifer ecotone on the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona (U.S.A.). Patterns of patch development were interpreted from spatial analyses, based on tree age and size, and past records of disturbance and climate. Five plots in the ecotone between mixed conifer forests and monospecific stands of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) were studied for patterns of patch development. The methods used include: (1) size-structure analyses, to compare species patch development; (2) dendrochronological dating of tree establishment; (3) tree ring master chronology, to determine periods of suppressed growth, compared to a Palmer Drought Severity Index; and (4) spatial analyses by species composition, size and age, with univariate and bivariate analyses of spatial association and spatial autocorrelation. We found an increased density of shade-tolerant and fire-intolerant species namely clusters of pole-sized white fir, and fewer large ponderosa pine. © 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.