Natural conifer regeneration patterns in temperate forests across the Inland Northwest, USA

Natural regeneration patterns of conifer species were studied. Seedling regeneration follows patterns responding to stand structure and site condition factors along shade and drought tolerance gradients. Our findings can assist in adaptive forest management for maintaining sustainable regeneration and plant biodiversity.

Context Seedling regeneration can vary with stand factors of overstory trees and understory non-tree vegetation and site conditions.
Aims Natural seedling regeneration patterns of coniferous species were investigated using Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) data of 10 common species across the Inland Northwest, USA.
Methods Zero-inflated negative binomial models were developed to understand the responses of natural regeneration to stand factors and site conditions.
Results Seedling occurrence varies along shade and drought tolerance gradients responding to stand structure and site conditions. Two moderate shade-tolerant species of different drought tolerance contributed as a transition. Strong response patterns were revealed for seedling density, in which seedling density was improved with the presence of conspecific trees while limited by competition, especially from the understory vegetation layer.
Conclusion Overstory structure and understory vegetation could improve or hinder natural regeneration of coniferous tree species given different shade tolerance and site conditions. Our findings can be effectively implemented in adaptive forest management for maintaining sustainable regeneration of specific conifers in broad temperate mixed forests.

Natural regeneration pattern, Coniferous tree species, Stand structure, Understory non-tree vegetation, Site conditions, Forest Inventory and Analysis

Shen, C. & Nelson, A.S. Annals of Forest Science (2018) 75: 54.

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