Effects of the lack of forest management on spatiotemporal dynamics of a subalpine Pinus cembra forest
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Knowledge about the stand structure and dynamics of subalpine forests is crucial to preserve their multifunctionality. In the present study, we reconstructed the spatiotemporal dynamics of a subalpine Pinus cembra forest in the eastern Italian Alps in response to natural disturbances and forest management. We adopted a concurrent point pattern, dendroecological and growth dominance (GD) analysis. We mapped and measured all trees of Pinus cembra and Larix decidua in a 1 ha plot. We analyzed intra- and interspecific spatial patterns and spatial autocorrelation of tree size and age. We explored establishment dynamics and shifts in competition by analyzing growth suppression/release patterns and GD trends. Results showed a clumped, uneven-aged, multilayered structure where pine was dominant. The synergic action of ecological and human-induced factors is discussed to explain the prevalence of pine over time. Spatial pattern and autocorrelation analyses suggest a different colonization strategy of the two species, in which pine established after small-scale perturbations and experienced a stronger inter- and intra-specific competition. The interruption of tree establishment and shift in GD toward large trees resulting from the lack of forest management are the most important findings of this research. This highlights the importance of an active management to avoid the homogenization of the forest structure that is generally associated with a reduction in biodiversity and protective ability of forests.
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