University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006
Stand structural dynamics on pristine and managed boreal peatlands
Doctoral dissertation, October 2006.
The objectives of this study were to investigate the stand structure and succession dynamics in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) stands on pristine peatlands and in Scots pine and Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) dominated stands on drained peatlands. Furthermore, my focus was on characterising how the inherent and environmental factors and the intermediate thinnings modify the stand structure and succession.
For pristine peatlands, the study was based on inventorial stand data, while for drained peatlands, longitudinal data from repeatedly measured stands were utilised. The studied sites covered the most common peatland site types in Finland. They were classified into two categories according to the ecohydrological properties related to microsite variation and nutrient levels within sites. Tree DBH and age distributions in relation to climate and site type were used to study the stand dynamics on pristine sites. On drained sites, the Weibull function was used to parameterise the DBH distributions and mixed linear models were constructed to characterise the impacts of different ecological factors on stand dynamics.
On pristine peatlands, both climate and the ecohydrology of the site proved to be crucial factors determining the stand structure and its dynamics. Irrespective of the vegetation succession, enhanced site productivity and increased stand stocking they significantly affected the stand dynamics also on drained sites. On the most stocked sites on pristine peatlands the inter-tree competition seemed to also be a significant factor modifying stand dynamics. Tree age and size diversity increased with stand age, but levelled out in the long term. After drainage, the stand structural unevenness increased due to the regeneration and/or ingrowth of the trees. This increase was more pronounced on sparsely forested composite sites than on more fully stocked genuine forested sites in Scots pine stands, which further undergo the formation of birch and spruce undergrowth beneath the overstory as succession proceeds. At 20-30 years after drainage the structural heterogeneity started to decrease, indicating increased inter-tree competition, which increased the mortality of suppressed trees within stand.
Peatland stands are more dynamic than anticipated and are generally not characterized by a balanced, self-perpetuating structure. On pristine sites, various successional pathways are possible, whereas on drained sites the succession has more uniform trend. Typically, stand succession proceeds without any distinct developmental stages on pristine peatlands, whereas on drained peatlands, at least three distinct stages could be identified. Thinnings had only little impact on the stand succession. The new information on stand dynamics may be utilised, e.g. in forest management planning to facilitate the allocation of the growth resources to the desired crop component by appropriate silvicultural treatments, as well as assist in assessing the effects of the climate change on the forested boreal peatlands.
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Last updated 03.10.2006