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A matter of time: self-regulated tree regeneration in a natural Norway spruce (Picea abies) forest at Mt. Brocken, Germany

Meyer, Peter, Janda, Pavel, Mikoláš, Martin, Trotsiuk, Volodymyr, Krumm, Frank, Mrhalová, Hana, Synek, Michal, Lábusová, Jana, Kraus, Daniel, Brandes, Jan, Svoboda, Miroslav
European journal of forest research 2017 v.136 no.5-6 pp. 907-921
Picea abies, browsing, dead wood, dendrochronology, forest types, stand structure, trees, Germany, Northern European region
European natural mountain Norway spruce (Picea abies) forests are currently subject to extensive disturbances. An improved understanding of the self-regulated regenerative capacity of this forest type is therefore needed. We used the last remnant of natural mountain Norway spruce forests in central northwestern Europe (BNF Brocken natural forest), to analyze (1) the diversity of structure and age distribution of the tree population and (2) the effect of disturbances on self-regulated tree regeneration over the last 264 years. To this end, we combined an assessment of stand structure with dendrochronological investigations and a review of disturbance history. We hypothesized that BNF exhibits a high diversity of tree ages and dimensions and that recruitment and survival of tree regeneration were largely independent from disturbances. BNF showed a high structural and age diversity. Disturbances exhibited no regular temporal pattern. Their effect on tree regeneration was rather complex and changed with observation period. Impeding and facilitating effects of past disturbances on recruitment were significant from 1736 to 1910. From 1911 until 2000, recruitment decoupled from preceding disturbances. Subsequent disturbances facilitated survival of established trees from 1736 to 1820, while afterward no significant influence could be proved. Our study showed that in the course of self-regulated development the tree population of BNF has gradually acquired, or maintained, a diverse structure. Disturbances served as an important driver of diversification. We concluded that increasing deadwood availability and limiting browsing are the key to securing immediate regeneration.