Analyzing Spatial Distribution Patterns of European Beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) Regeneration in Dependence of Canopy Openings
Stiers, Melissa ; Willim, Katharina ; Seidel, Dominik ; Ammer, Christian ; Kabal, Myroslav ; Stillhard, Jonas ; Annighöfer, Peter
Citable Link (URL):http://resolver.sub.uni-goettingen.de/purl?gs-1/16323
The use of natural regeneration techniques is one of the key elements of modern (close-to-nature) forestry. In natural forests, changes in canopy cover, such as the emergence and successive re-closure of canopy gaps are particularly important, as they influence the light availability on the forest floor. Creating canopy gaps of different size is a promising silvicultural tool allowing the regulation of the light availability in managed forests in order to control regeneration composition and development. In this study, we used terrestrial laser scanning data to investigate the relationship between canopy-gap dimensions and emerging natural regeneration along a gradient of management in forests dominated by European beech (Fagus sylvatica, L.). We analyzed the spatial distribution and height of regeneration patches in dependence of gap characteristics. Mean regeneration height decreases progressively from the gap polygon over a transition zone towards the area under the canopy, while the tallest regeneration plants were placed in positions midway between center and gap edge, and not directly in the gap center as we initially assumed. The centers of regeneration patches were not displaced when compared to the associated canopy gap centers, as has been reported in other studies conducted on the northern hemisphere for various tree species. The observed patterns did not depend on management strategies, indicating that regeneration responded equally to naturally created gaps and gaps that were caused by logging. We conclude that establishment and development of shade-tolerant European beech regeneration in forest stands is driven by gap openings, but not necessarily direct radiation. If at all, pronounced direct radiation mainly occurs at the northern edge of large gaps. Neither regeneration patch center, nor regeneration tree height pointed in that direction. Our study suggests that in the investigated beech-dominated forests the effect of increased light availability at the northern edge of a gap is overruled by other factors increasing towards the gap edge, such as increased belowground competition of the overstory trees.