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Vulnerability of uneven-aged forests to storm damage

Hanewinkel, Marc, Kuhn, Thomas, Bugmann, Harald, Lanz, Adrian, Brang, Peter
Forestry 2014 v.87 no.4 pp. 525-534
Abies alba, Picea abies, data collection, databases, even-aged stands, forests, harvesting, inventories, regression analysis, species diversity, stand density, statistical models, storm damage, storms, time series analysis, trees, uneven-aged stands, Switzerland
Uneven-aged forests are assumed to have a high stability against storm damage but have rarely been analysed for vulnerability to storm damage due to a lack of a sufficient empirical database. Here we model storm damage in uneven-aged forest to analyse major factors that may determine the sensitivity of this type of forests to storms based on a broad database. Data are derived of public forests in the canton Neuchâtel in West Switzerland that are dominated by silver fir and Norway spruce and managed since the beginning of the 20th century following a single-tree selection system. A unique dataset of periodical (every 5–10 years) full inventories measuring the diameter of every single tree including salvage cuttings was available for the investigation. The time series reached back until 1920 and covered an area of 16 000 ha divided into 3000 divisions. The effect of a major winter storm (‘Lothar’) in December 1999 on these forests was investigated using a subset of 648 divisions. The influence of the vertical stand structure on the vulnerability of storm damage was studied using logistic regression models. To facilitate the analyses, an index of closeness to a J-shaped distribution (LikeJ) based on the number of trees in different diameter classes was developed. Besides structural indices, variables representing stand characteristics, soil-related and topography-related variables were included. The results of our study show that the overall damage level of the investigated forests was rather low. The variables that entered the model for the uneven-aged stands were different to those that are normally significant for even-aged stands. While variables like stand structure, the timing of the harvesting and topographic variables entered a multivariate statistical model as significant predictors, standard predictors for storm damage in even-aged stands such as stand density, thinning intensity or species composition were not significant. We hypothesize that the uneven-aged structure of the investigated forests may be one reason for the low damage level we observed but emphasize the need for more detailed research to support this conclusion.