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Disturbance history and dynamics of an old-growth mixed species mountain forest in the Slovenian AlpsFirm, Dejan; Nagel, Thomas A; Diaci, Jurij
Forest ecology and management, 2009, 2009-04-00, 20090416, 2015-07-10, Letnik: 257, Številka: 9Journal Article, Publication
A long history of human presence in the Alps has made studies of natural forest structure, composition, and disturbance processes difficult. In the Slovenian Alps, we identified a mixed European beech ( Fagus sylvatica L.)-silver fir ( Abies alba Mill.)-Norway spruce ( Picea abies (L.) Karst.) stand with old-growth characteristics that escaped past cutting. We reconstructed the dynamics of the stand using a combination of stand and age structure analyses, dendroecological evidence of past canopy disturbance, and historical evidence of past human activities. The disturbance reconstruction revealed a stand-scale disturbance in the 1850s. Based on the presence of pit-and-mound topography throughout much of the stand and the absence of logging activities found in historical records, we assume this event was caused by strong winds. The current structure and composition of the stand are largely a result of this event. Post-disturbance forest development was dominated by the release of shade tolerant regeneration, especially F. sylvatica. The windthrow also created appropriate conditions (i.e. increased light and exposed mineral soil) for recruitment of less shade tolerant species, including larch ( Larix decidua Mill.) and maple ( Acer pseudoplatanus L.). The results suggest that periodic, intermediate severity wind disturbances, similar to the event documented here, may have had an important influence on pre-settlement forest dynamics in mixed mountain forests of the Alps, and add to the limited available information regarding the historic range of natural variability of disturbance processes. This information may be useful for forest management that attempts to emulate natural processes.
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