Understanding how species-specific disturbances affect the dynamics of mixed forests is becoming increasingly important due to rapidly changing disturbance regimes. This study estimated the effect of Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) mortality on the disturbance processes in two mixed beech stands of the Western Carpathians that were affected by a bark beetle outbreak. We evaluated the size distribution, fraction of canopy and expanded gaps, the characteristics of gapmakers and the contribution of different species to gap size. The measured canopy gap fraction was <5%, and most canopy gaps were small (<100 m2). Spruce was the most abundant gapmaker, and its share among gapmakers was 3–6 times higher than its share in the canopy. We found that the increase in spruce mortality due to the outbreak resulted in a fine-scale mortality pattern. However, spruce gapmakers did not contribute much to gap area size, as shown by a weak correlation between the number of spruce gapmakers and the area of expanded gaps. Diameter distribution of living versus recently dead trees showed that beech mortality occurred disproportionately in large size classes. However, dead spruce trees were equally frequent in all diameter classes, which means beetles did not exclusively attack larger trees in these stands during the outbreak. We conclude that spruce mortality may have influenced successional processes by giving a competitive advantage to two other species that were not affected by the outbreak, provided that a high deer browsing intensity does not hinder the regeneration of new seedlings.
European Journal of Forest Research – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 5, 2017
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