Advanced Aboveground Spatial Analysis as Proxy for the Competitive Environment Affecting Sapling Development
Citable Link (URL):http://resolver.sub.uni-goettingen.de/purl?gs-1/16245
Tree saplings are exposed to a competitive growth environment in which resources are limited and the ability to adapt determines general vitality and specific growth performance. In this study we analyzed the aboveground spatial neighborhood of oak [Quercus petraea (Matt.) Liebl.] and beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) saplings growing in Germany, by using hemispherical photography and terrestrial laser scanning as proxy for the competitive pressure saplings were exposed to. The hemispherical images were used to analyze the light availability and the three-dimensional (3D) point clouds from the laser scanning were used to assess the space and forest structure around the saplings. The aim was to increase the precision with which the biomass allocation, growth, and morphology of the saplings could be predicted by including more detailed information of their environment. The predictive strength of the models was especially increased through direct neighborhood variables (e.g., relative space filling), next to the light availability being the most important predictor variable. The biomass allocation patterns within the more light demanding oak were strongly driven by the space availability around the saplings. Diameter and height growth variables of both species reacted significantly to changes in light availability, and partly also to the neighborhood variables. The leaf morphology [as leaf-area ratio (LAR)] was also driven by light availability and decreased with increasing light availability. However, the branch morphology (as mean branch weight) could not be explained for oak and the model outcome for beech was hard to interpret. The results could show that individuals of the same species perform differently under constant light conditions but differing neighborhoods. Assessing the neighborhood of trees with highly precise measurement devices, like terrestrial laser scanners, proved to be useful. However, the primary response to a dense neighborhood seemed to be coping with a reduction of the lateral light availability aboveground, rather than responding to an increase of competition belowground. The results suggest continuing efforts to increase the precision with which plant environments can be described through innovative and efficient methods, like terrestrial laser scanning.