Growth of Mountain Birch Seedlings in Early-Successional Patches: A Year-Round Perspective

Authors

  • M. Weih

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Plant Ecology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
      Department of Short Rotation Forestry Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Box 7016 750 07 Uppsala Sweden E-mail: Martin.Weih@LTO.SLU.SE
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Department of Short Rotation Forestry Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Box 7016 750 07 Uppsala Sweden E-mail: Martin.Weih@LTO.SLU.SE

Abstract

Abstract: Seedlings of mountain birch (Betula pubescens ssp. czerepanovii), a subarctic tree, mainly survive and establish in early-successional patches with low vegetation cover. In particular, during the first years after seed germination, a rapid seedling growth rate is important for winter survival. Seedling growth rate is controlled by plant nitrogen (N) concentration. On a year-round perspective, the N concentration is influenced by N uptake rate during both summer and winter and by N loss during autumn. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effects of autumn N loss and winter N uptake for seedling growth during summer. The study used young seedlings growing in situ in northern Sweden. Since the growth rate of whole plants cannot be measured in situ, it was estimated using a simple, empirical seedling growth model. The model was based on data from controlled experiments and validated using growth data from a field study. The field study included sequential seedling harvests which were carried out at two sites differing in altitude, from autumn 1994 until autumn 1996. The seedling growth model was used to simulate the effects on growth rate of autumn N losses and winter N uptake. It was found that a decrease in the amount of N lost in autumn and an increase in the amount of N taken up during winter could enhance the growth rate of mountain birch seedlings by the same order of magnitude as an increase in growing season soil temperature by 1 to 2 K.

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