European beech, silver fir, and Norway spruce differ in establishment, height growth, and mortality rates on coarse woody debris and forest floor—a study from a mixed beech forest in the Western Carpathians
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In mixed forests, coarse woody debris promotes the successful establishment and growth of conifers and beech. In contrast to beech and fir, older spruce seedlings were only present on coarse woody debris and not on the forest floor.
Coarse woody debris (CWD) is considered a suitable seedbed for small-seeded and light-demanding species. Its role in enhancing tree regeneration is well reported in boreal or subalpine spruce forests. Less is known about its role in the establishment, growth, and survival of other species, particularly in mixed forests.
We analyzed the role of CWD in seedling establishment, growth, and survival for European beech, silver fir, and Norway spruce.
We tracked the growth and survival of all germinants and seedlings over 5 years.
Conifers were relatively more successful than beech at colonizing on CWD. The density of seedlings was variable in all CWD decay classes but was the highest on well-decomposed CWD. CWD supported the growth of all species. Beech cohorts and older seedlings had similar mortality rates on both microsites. Spruce germinants did not survive on the forest floor for more than a year, and older seedlings were only observed on CWD. Fir cohorts had similar mortality rates on both microsites, but older seedlings survived better on the forest floor.
Although the three species differed in their preferred microsite for establishment, CWD can be considered a suitable regeneration microsite for all three species by enhancing their growth and, in the case of spruce, both short- and long-term survival.
KeywordsRegeneration Colonization pattern Decaying wood Microsite
The assistance of Wojciech Cieślik, Irena Kulikowska, Maciej Pawlaczek, and Tomasz Pachowicz in field data collection is appreciated. We thank Jerzy Szwagrzyk and Maki Suzuki, and the anonymous reviewers for their comments on the manuscript. We thank Gregory J. Sproull for revising the English.
This study was supported by the research grants: N N304 325436 (2009-12) and N N309 716440 (2011-14) of the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education.
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