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Temporal variability of size–growth relationships in a Norway spruce forest: the influences of stand structure, logging, and climate

Castagneri, Daniele, Nola, Paola, Cherubini, Paolo, Motta, Renzo
Canadian journal of forest research = 2012 v.42 no.3 pp. 550-560
Picea abies, climate, dendroclimatology, forest stands, forests, logging, stand structure, temporal variation, trees, Alps region, Italy
In a forest stand, competition plays a central role, affecting individual growth. The size–growth relationship (SGR) indicates whether large trees grow proportionally more than (asymmetric SGR), equal to (symmetric), or less than (inversely asymmetric) smaller trees. SGR is thus an indicator of the growth partitioning and competition intensity within a stand. Using tree-ring analysis, we investigated long-term trends and interannual variability of SGR in several Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) stands in the Paneveggio Forest (eastern Italian Alps) over a 100-year period. The study plots were characterized by different stand structures (one multilayered and two monolayered) and disturbance histories (different dates of logging). Logging conducted until the 1940s induced an inversely asymmetric SGR in all the plots. During the successive five decades, in the monolayered plots, it shifted to direct asymmetric (plot 1) and to symmetric (plot 2). In the multilayered plot (plot 3), SGR remained inversely asymmetric. A direct effect of climate on SGR interannual variability was not found. However, fast-growing trees had a stronger climatic signal than slow-growing trees, indicating that growth rate affects tree response to climate. Moreover, we observed that sensitivity to climate was reduced in the monolayered plots over the study period, possibly as a consequence of increased competition.