Does the persistence of sweet chestnut depend on cultural inputs? Regeneration, recruitment, and mortality in Quercus- and Castanea-dominated forests

Quercus secondary forests show a gradual transition toward mixed forests, with sweet chestnut ( Castanea sativa ) becoming increasingly abundant in the western Spanish Central System. Additionally, in chestnut-dominated stands, it shows a certain resistance to competitive displacement by Quercus pyrenaica . Our results partially refute the traditional view that C. sativa is unable to recruit in the absence of cultural inputs.

Context Sweet chestnut, Castanea sativa, is a component of European broadleaf forests and is one of the most managed trees. Due to a reduction in cultural inputs, chestnut-dominated stands tend to be invaded by other species, and it is unclear how chestnut is able to persist in natural mixed forests.
Aims Our work aimed to identity the main factors that limit the establishment of C. sativa and to analyze the recruitment and mortality processes of C. sativa trees.
Methods The age, growth ring patterns, regeneration density, and the spatial structure of trees and saplings in 11 plots in the Spanish Central System were analyzed.
Results Chestnut seedling density increased with C. sativa basal area, but transition toward the sapling stage appeared limited owing to light availability. In Quercus pyrenaica secondary forests, sparse canopies did not constrain chestnut regeneration, and in old chestnut stands, C. sativa showed a certain resistance to competitive displacement. By contrast, mixed young coppices showed a high mortality, most likely due to competition with other vigorous resprouters.
Conclusion Quercus secondary forests showed a gradual transition toward mixed forests with sweet chestnut becoming increasingly more abundant. In old stands, C. sativa is likely to persist under a gap-phase mode of regeneration. Our results partially refute the traditional view that C. sativa is unable to recruit in the absence of cultural inputs.

Keywords Chestnut recruitment, Quercus pyrenaica, Secondary forest, Tree mortality, Forest succession

Silla, F., Camisón, Á., Solana, A. et al. Annals of Forest Science (2018) 75: 95.

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Data availability
The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are available in the public repository OpenScience Framework ( (Silla 2018). Datasets not peerreviewed. Silla (2018) Dynamics and Regeneration of Chestnut forests. Version 31 Aug 2018. Open Science Framework. [Dataset].

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