Silver fir stand productivity is enhanced when mixed with Norway spruce: evidence based on large-scale inventory data and a generic modelling approach



Questions: How to evaluate the mixture effect on basal area increment in two-species forest stands? Is a mixed Norway spruce–silver fir stand more productive than pure adjacent stands of either species? How to develop generic modelling approaches to assess mixture effects in forest stands?

Location: In addition to a case study on Norway spruce–silver fir stands in French mountain forests, the generic approach used goes beyond local applications.

Methods: We took advantage of National Forest Inventory data to develop a unique stand basal-area-increment model for pure and mixed stands of Norway spruce and silver fir that responds to ecological site conditions. The database was made up of 284 pure Norway spruce stands, 196 pure silver fir stands, and 323 mixed stands of these species.

Results: Pure silver fir basal area increment is strongly influenced by spring climatic conditions, whereas pure Norway spruce is more influenced by soil conditions. The mixture of these species has a positive effect on silver fir, which decreases as the proportion of fir increases. In contrast, the mixture has no noticeable effect on Norway spruce.

Conclusion: We developed a stand basal-area-increment model evidencing an advantage of the mixture on silver fir basal area increment, but not on Norway spruce. The mathematical formulation of the model developed is generic and can be used in all two-species mixture situations. It also makes it possible to compare different mixture situations with each other.