• Competition;
  • Fire disturbance;
  • Microsite;
  • Spatial pattern;
  • Treefall

Abstract. We studied the characteristics of understorey regeneration on two sites with different fire history in a mature Pinus sylvestris forest in eastern Finland. The study area was a 4-ha plot, which was divided into two parts based on fire history analysis. In one part the last fire event was a stand-replacing fire in the early 19th century, after which the whole stand regenerated, while the other part of the study plot was subsequently burnt by a surface fire in 1906. Understorey P. sylvestris individuals were much more abundant in the area of the 1906 burn compared to the old burn. In both areas the size frequency distribution of living trees was bimodal, with frequency peaks at the < 5 cm and 30–150 cm height classes. In the old burn small understorey trees were mainly associated with microsites created by treefall disturbances while in the 1906 burn most small understorey trees occurred on vegetation-covered microsites. This indicates that with increasing time since last fire establishment of new understorey trees becomes more restricted by the availability of microsites created by treefall disturbances. In both areas the proportion of vigorous small understorey trees was highest on decayed wood. In the older burn uprooted pits and mounds also had a significant proportion of healthy small understorey trees, while the majority of trees classified as seriously weakened or dying were growing on microhabitats characterized by undisturbed vegetation. Ripley's K-function analyses showed that spatial distribution of understorey trees was clustered in both areas in all microsite types and clustering at small scales was most pronounced in understorey trees growing in uprooted spots or in association with decayed wood. The bivariate analysis showed a significant repulsion effect between large trees and understorey trees at intermediate spatial scales, indicating that competition had an effect on understorey tree distribution and this effect was more pronounced in the younger burn. The analysis suggests that in Pinus sylvestris forests the abundance, quality and spatial pattern of understorey tree population may vary considerably as a function of disturbance history.