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Tree species dynamics in Swiss forests as affected by site, stand and management: A retrospective analysis

Nikolova, Petia Simeonova, Rohner, Brigitte, Zell, Jürgen, Brang, Peter
Forest ecology and management 2019 v.448 pp. 278-293
Abies alba, Fagus sylvatica, Picea abies, climate, climate change, forest ecosystems, forest inventory, forest management, forests, habitats, land use, monitoring, retrospective studies, species richness, temporal variation, trees
Knowledge regarding tree species dynamics is essential to understand forest responses to the environment, and to evaluate management options in adapting forest ecosystems to future climates. As maintaining tree species diversity and promoting structural stand heterogeneity are among the strategic elements in adapting forest management to climate change, the monitoring tree diversity is an ongoing challenge. Large-scale forest inventories have been proposed as a suitable basis for forest diversity analysis on large spatial and temporal scales.We used Swiss forest inventory data (NFI) to analyse temporal changes in tree species richness on small plots from 1983 to 2006. For two size groups of trees (‘small’ trees with dbh from 12 to 35 cm from plots with 200 m2 area, and ‘large’ trees with dbh ≥ 36 cm from plots with 500 m2 area), we identified the number and the tree species appearing (‘gains’) or disappearing (‘losses’) from each plot during the study period, and related these changes to site, stand and management characteristics.We found that species richness change was size-dependent and varied largely due to regional differences in the past land-use history of the Swiss forests. ‘Gains’ of ‘small’ trees were higher in stands with diverse vertical structure, with less competitive pressure as well as in warm environments, whereas ‘gains’ of ‘large’ trees were mostly related to climate and were highest in warm and moderately moist habitats. ‘Losses’ in both tree-size groups were mainly promoted by management. Our analysis suggests high vulnerability of Picea abies and high competitiveness of Fagus sylvatica, and underlines the potential of Abies alba in forming future Swiss forests.Despite of the silvicultural paradigm to create more species rich forests, most silvicultural interventions decreased small-scale species richness. This calls for further studies on the effect of management on tree species diversity.