Changes in the abundance of keystone forest floor species in response to changes of forest structure
Article first published online: 1 AUG 2012
© 2012 International Association for Vegetation Science
Journal of Vegetation Science
Volume 24, Issue 2, pages 296–306, March 2013
How to Cite
Hedwall, P.-O., Brunet, J., Nordin, A., Bergh, J. (2013), Changes in the abundance of keystone forest floor species in response to changes of forest structure. Journal of Vegetation Science, 24: 296–306. doi: 10.1111/j.1654-1103.2012.01457.x
- Issue published online: 24 JAN 2013
- Article first published online: 1 AUG 2012
- Manuscript Revised: 2 JUL 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 2 JUL 2012
- Manuscript Received: 4 NOV 2011
- Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (MISTRA)
- Swedish Forestry Industry
- Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)
- Umeå University
- Forestry Research Institute
- Avenella flexuosa ;
- Boreal forest;
- Forest management;
- Forest understorey vegetation;
- Vaccinium myrtillus
Does the abundance of keystone forest floor species change in response to changes in the forest structure?
We used data from the Swedish National Forest Inventory to investigate changes in the abundance of three common species, as well as the total abundance of all understorey vascular plants (the field layer) in forests in the boreal and temperate parts of Sweden. GLMs and GAMs were used to relate species abundance and temporal changes in abundances to forest structure and forest structural change.
Productivity, measured as the site index, was the most important determinant of individual species' abundance. The volume of Picea abies, the density of tree stems and forest age were among the most important forest structural variables. We found that the dwarf shrub Vaccinium myrtillus, the narrow-leaved grasses (mainly Avenella flexuosa) and the total field layer cover decreased in boreal Sweden from 1994 through 2010 and that these changes coincided with an increase in forest density and with a reduction in forest age.
Changes in Swedish forests to higher tree layer density and younger age appear to contribute significantly to current changes in forest floor vegetation. The use of more intensive thinning practices to reduce the total density of the forest and to increase the proportion of broad-leaved tree species and Pinus sylvestris would favour the forest floor species in this study. Moreover, increasing forest age (i.e. the length of rotation periods) might favour V. myrtillus in particular, for which the time since disturbance is important for the recovery of pre-disturbance abundance. However, increased thinning intensity and forest age will reduce the potential for wood production, implying a trade-off between production of wood and maintenance of well-developed forest floor vegetation.