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Title: Diverging effects of overstorey conversion scenarios on the understorey vegetation in a former coppice-with-standards forest
Authors: Van Calster, Hans ×
Baeten, L
Verheyen, K
De Keersmaeker, L
Dekeyser, Stijn
Rogister, JE
Hermy, Martin #
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: Elsevier Scientific Pub. Co.
Series Title: Forest ecology and management vol:256 issue:4 pages:519-528
Abstract: Conversion of historical tomodern forest management regimes can have profound effects on understorey
diversity and composition, because overstorey changes affect environmental conditions in the
herbaceous layer.
Management-driven changes (1957/1967–2005) in the overstorey of two temperate, deciduous
forests generated nine conversion types in a set of 255 semi-permanent plots formerly managed as
coppice-with-standards. Dominant canopy cover shifted from the shrub to the tree layer in all conversion
types. Tree and shrub richness decreased significantly for most conversion types. Differences in forest
structure (uneven-aged vs. even-aged), changes in litter quality and overstorey permeability for light
characterised each conversion.
We determined temporal changes in herb layer cover, species richness and Shannon–Wiener diversity
for each conversion. We tested if herbaceous species composition for each conversion type changed
between 1957/1967 and 2005 in terms of among plot variability in species composition (multivariate
dispersion) and directional changes in average composition (composition shift). Differential changes in
richness, cover, litter quality and shade casting ability of the overstorey were related to changes in herb
layer species or ecological groups of species across conversions.
Total herb layer cover increased (mainly related to Anemone nemorosa, Hyacinthoides non-scripta or
Rubus fruticosus agg.), except where Beech was planted on poor soils. Richness increased where litter
quality increased and decreased only on strongly shaded poor soils. Decreased/increased multivariate
dispersion coincided with decreased/increased richness and Shannon–Wiener diversity. Furthermore,
only conversions to even-aged stands, except for Oak on poor soils, had strong composition shifts which
were reflected by an increase of indifferent/acidophilous species and species with wide amplitude. For
gradual conversions to uneven-aged high forest, the edaphic changes caused by altered overstorey
composition were reflected in the understorey.
In the absence of incentives to reinitiate traditional management, conserving the understorey
community is best achieved by a continuation of former overstorey species composition and unevenaged
high forest management. Beech plantations caused strong and negative effects, but as it is a climax
species, Beech could still be used in spatiotemporal mixtures with soil improving species. Favouring or
introducing the latter species can improve edaphic conditions of acid-sensitive poor soils due to their
high-litter quality.
ISSN: 0378-1127
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IT
Appears in Collections:Division Forest, Nature and Landscape Research
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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