Disturbance history of a European old-growth mixed-species forest—A spatial dendro-ecological analysis
Article first published online: 24 FEB 2009
2005 IAVS - the International Association of Vegetation Science
Journal of Vegetation Science
Volume 16, Issue 5, pages 511–522, October 2005
How to Cite
Splechtna, B. E., Gratzer, G. and Black, B. A. (2005), Disturbance history of a European old-growth mixed-species forest—A spatial dendro-ecological analysis. Journal of Vegetation Science, 16: 511–522. doi: 10.1111/j.1654-1103.2005.tb02391.x
- Issue published online: 24 FEB 2009
- Article first published online: 24 FEB 2009
- Received 26 January 2005; Accepted 11 June 2005
- Boundary-line method;
- Disturbance regime;
- Forest dynamics;
- Spatial pattern analysis
We were interested if and how variation in frequency and/or size of disturbances affect the dynamics of a montane old-growth forest in Central Europe.
The forest, co-dominated by Fagus sylvatica, Picea abies and Abies alba, is located in Lower Austria and represents one of the few sizable virgin forests in Central Europe.
We extracted cores from 100 trees using systematic grid sampling (grid cell size 10 m × 10 m) on each of four 1-ha plots distributed across the old-growth remnant of 300 ha. We inferred disturbance events from rapid early growth and release events. For defining release criteria, we applied the boundary line method. We investigated the spatial structure of current age and gap distributions and past disturbance events in grid cells, using a pair density statistic.
The disturbance histories indicate decades with peaks and also extended periods without disturbance. Some peaks occurred synchronously at three of the four plots (1910s, 1930s, 1960s and 1980s). Peaks and gaps in the disturbance chronologies widely agreed with peaks and gaps in the age distributions. Most disturbance events during single decades showed a random spatial distribution.
There is considerable variation in disturbance frequency and/or severity over time. Most disturbance events will rather thin the stand than clear larger areas at once. Following scattered disturbance two pathways occur: (1) gap expansion leading to creation of larger gaps, and (2) gap closure by lateral encroachment or by subcanopy trees growing into the canopy.