Abstract. The occurrence of macrofossil charcoal (long axis > 0.5 mm) and Picea abies (Norway spruce) pollen in peat stratigraphies, in combination with size and age data from 2976 P. abies trees were used to analyse ecosystem continuity and stand‐structure in ten old‐growth swamp‐forests in northern Sweden. All stands were dominated by P. abies, a species whose abundance increased westwards in Sweden between 3000 and 2000 yr B.P. In three stands no macrofossil charcoal was found and the maximum age of the peat, determined by 14C dating, varied from 1800 to 3600 yr B.P. In the other seven stands the number of levels containing charcoal varied from 1 to 23, but only between 1 and 7 levels were found after the appearance of spruce. Here the maximum age of the peat varied from 400 to 7900 yr B.P. The ten stands had an all‐sized stand structure and a stand continuity of ca. 300 yr. The shape of the age structure was similar to an inverse J‐curve. This indicates a continuous recruitment over time in a self‐perpetuating ecosystem. In a short‐term perspective (< 300 yr), the swamp‐forests are characterized by individual trees continually emerging while others are dying. it is suggested that internal dynamics of continuous small‐scale disturbances in combination with local site‐specific factors determine the structure of these forests. in a long‐term perspective, some of the present spruce swamp‐forests within the northern boreal zone have functioned as true fire‐free refugia since the establishment of P. abies populations while others have been affected by recurring fires, although not as frequently as forests on surrounding drier sites. The hypothesis that Scandinavian spruce swamp‐forests in general have functioned as true longterm fire‐free refugia is thus modified by the present results.
Journal of Vegetation Science – Wiley
Published: Apr 1, 1995
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