Effects of climate and management history on the distribution and growth of sycamore ( Acer pseudoplatanus L.) in a southern British woodland in comparison to native competitors
AbstractSycamore ( Acer pseudoplatanus L.) is an invasive, non-native species in Great Britain and its management in conservation areas is controversial. Climate change adds further uncertainty to decision making. We investigated the role of management history in determining present-day abundance and the effects of climatic variability on growth, photosynthesis and phenology at Wytham Woods, a UK Environmental Change Network (ECN) monitoring site. Relatively few sycamore trees were found in undisturbed ancient, semi-natural woodland and recent plantations, despite being common in other areas of the site. Sycamore grew more slowly than ash ( Fraxinus excelsior L.), its principal competitor, but at a similar rate to pedunculate oak ( Quercus robur L.) in the period 1993–2005. There were fewer sycamore than ash seedlings, regardless of which species dominated the canopy. Growth of sycamore was slower in dry periods than wet ones and lower photosynthetic rates were measured in canopy leaves under dry compared with wet soil conditions. This study therefore suggests that sycamore does not present a serious threat to undisturbed ancient woodland on the site and that it may eventually decline in areas of the site where it competes with ash, in the absence of disturbance. It may also decline under climate change if summer droughts become more frequent.