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Microenvironmental conditions for Japanese alder seedling establishment in a hummocky fen

Shida, Yuichiro, Nakamura, Futoshi
Plant ecology 2011 v.212 no.11 pp. 1819-1829
Alnus japonica, fens, forests, germination, microrelief, population dynamics, seed dispersal, seedlings, seeds, soil quality
In this article, we focused on hummocky microtopography as a prominent feature of mires and explored the microenvironmental conditions suitable for alder seedling establishment. Japanese alder (Alnus japonica) forest is widely distributed in wetlands in northern Japan. However, because alder seedlings are rare in mires, alder population dynamics and conditions that favor the establishment of alder seedlings are still unknown. The study was conducted in northern Japan at a site in mesotrophic mire. We surveyed the seedling density, the microenvironmental conditions (light, litter cover, and soil quality), and the density of dispersed seeds in alder forest and in the adjacent herbaceous fen. In addition, we performed a laboratory experiment to examine the germination characteristics of alder. Seedlings grew only on hummocks in alder forest. The percentage of litter cover on hummocks was lower than in hollows, and the density of dispersed seeds in alder forest was much higher than in herbaceous fen. Seeds of Japanese alder germinated under both light and dark conditions, and the germination rate were high under light and high-temperature conditions. Our results suggest that litter cover may inhibit seedling establishment and hummocks that characterized by less litter cover are suitable place for the establishment of seedlings. We conclude that hummocky microtopography and abundant seed rain in the mire enable the establishment of Japanese alder seedlings.