oaioai:doaj.org/article:05547b3fd4424bd2a4f7d77529665390

Facilitative-competitive interactions in an old-growth forest: the importance of large-diameter trees as benefactors and stimulators for forest community assembly.

Abstract

The role of competition in tree communities is increasingly well understood, while little is known about the patterns and mechanisms of the interplay between above- and belowground competition in tree communities. This knowledge, however, is crucial for a better understanding of community dynamics and developing adaptive near-natural management strategies. We assessed neighbourhood interactions in an unmanaged old-growth European beech (Fagus sylvatica) forest by quantifying variation in the intensity of above- (shading) and belowground competition (crowding) among dominant and co-dominant canopy beech trees during tree maturation. Shading had on average a much larger impact on radial growth than crowding and the sensitivity to changes in competitive conditions was lowest for crowding effects. We found that each mode of competition reduced the effect of the other. Increasing crowding reduced the negative effect of shading, and at high levels of shading, crowding actually had a facilitative effect and increased growth. Our study demonstrates that complementarity in above- and belowground processes enable F. sylvatica to alter resource acquisition strategies, thus optimising tree radial growth. As a result, competition seemed to become less important in stands with a high growing stock and tree communities with a long continuity of anthropogenic undisturbed population dynamics. We suggest that growth rates do not exclusively depend on the density of potential competitors at the intraspecific level, but on the conspecific aggregation of large-diameter trees and their functional role for regulating biotic filtering processes. This finding highlights the potential importance of the rarely examined relationship between the spatial aggregation pattern of large-diameter trees and the outcome of neighbourhood interactions, which may be central to community dynamics and the related forest ecosystem services

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oaioai:doaj.org/article:05547b3fd4424bd2a4f7d77529665390Last time updated on 10/14/2017

This paper was published in Directory of Open Access Journals.

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