Crown plasticity and neighborhood interactions of European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) in an old-growth forest

M. Schröter, W. Härdtle, G. von Oheimb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Competition for canopy space is a process of major importance in forest dynamics. Although virgin and old-growth European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) forests in Europe have been studied for many years, there are to date no studies of individual-tree crown plasticity and the way this is influenced by local neighborhood interactions in these forests. In this study, we analyzed crown plasticity and local neighborhood interactions of individual trees in the upper canopy of the old-growth beech forests of Serrahn, northeast Germany. In a 2.8-ha sample plot, we measured crown radii of all upper canopy trees and analyzed the direction and extent of crown asymmetry. Size, relative position, and distance of neighboring trees were used to construct vectors of neighborhood asymmetry within different distances from target trees. The crowns of beech trees showed strong morphological plasticity. Mean absolute and relative displacement of crown centers from the stem base were 1.95 m and 0.37, respectively. Circular–circular rank correlation coefficients between the direction of crown displacement and the direction of neighborhood pressure showed that trees strongly positioned their crowns away from local neighbors. Highest correlation coefficients were obtained when basal area and relative position of neighboring trees within a radial distance of 12 m were considered. Clark and Evans index and Ripley’s K-function showed that crowns were more regularly distributed than stems. Projected canopy cover was about 10% higher than canopy cover with simulated circular crowns. We conclude that the crowns of older beech trees have a high ability to plastically respond to changes in the local canopy conditions, enabling very effective exploitation of canopy space.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)787-798
JournalEuropean Journal of Forest Research
Volume131
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Keywords

  • tree canopy displacement
  • norway spruce
  • stand level
  • dead wood
  • mixed stands
  • picea-abies
  • asymmetry
  • dynamics
  • competition
  • patterns

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