Impacts of soil conditions and light availability on natural regeneration of Norway spruce Picea abies (L.) H. Karst. in low-elevation mountain forests

Natural regeneration of P. abies (L.) H. Karst. may reach high densities in lower mountain elevations. The highest densities were found in sites with moderate light availability, with low pH, and not near the riverbank. However, age-height classes differed in the predicted magnitude of response, but were consistent in response directions. Mosses and understory species typical of coniferous forests were positively correlated with regeneration density.

Context Norway spruce Picea abies (L.) H. Karst. in Central Europe is at risk under climate change scenarios, particularly in mountain regions. Little is known about the impact of environmental factors on the natural regeneration of P. abies in low-elevation mountain forests.
Aims We aimed to assess impacts of distance from the riverbank, soil pH, and light availability on natural P. abies regeneration. We hypothesized that (1) natural P. abies regeneration would depend on light availability and soil pH and (2) there are understory plant species which may indicate the microsites suitable for natural regeneration of P. abies.
Methods The study was conducted in the Stołowe Mountains National Park (SW Poland, 600–800 m a.s.l.). We established 160 study plots (25 m2) for natural regeneration, light availability, soil pH, and understory vegetation assessment.
Results The highest densities of natural regeneration of P. abies were observed in sites with moderate light availability (0.1–0.2 of open sky) and low pH (3.5–4.5), and located relatively far from the riverbank. Cover of 22 understory plant species were correlated with natural P. abies regeneration densities, mostly positively.
Conclusion Different stages of natural regeneration of P. abies revealed different regeneration niches. Most understory plant species (bryophytes and herbs typical of coniferous forests) do not compete with natural regeneration of P. abies.

Recruitment, Understory vegetation, Diffuse non-interceptance, Soil pH, Seedlings, Saplings

Open Access Publication
Dyderski, M.K., Gazda, A., Hachułka, M. et al. Annals of Forest Science (2018) 75: 91.

Data availability
The datasets generated and analyzed during the current study are available in the figshare repository (Dyderski et al. 2018).
Dyderski M K, Gazda A, Hachułka M, Horodecki P, Kałucka I, Kamczyc J, Malicki M, Pielech R, Smoczyk M, Skorupski M, Wierzcholska S, Jagodziński AM (2018a). Picea abies natural regeneration dataset. V1. figshare. [Dataset].

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