Managing understory light to maintain the coexistence of forest tree species with different shade tolerances (PhD Thesis). Université de Liège – Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, 112 p., 24 tabl. 25 fig
Similar to the management of the other environmental resources, forest management has been questioned and more sustainable practices of forest management are being sought. New close-to-nature practices aim to favor natural processes over human interventions. Particularly, continuous-cover forestry has the goal of relying on natural regeneration, and maintaining irregular stand structure and tree species mixture. However, maintaining mixture of species with dierent shade tolerances appears arduous with such a silvicultural system. Successfully managing irregular and mixed forests, relying on natural processes, requires a strong knowledge of the ecology of natural regeneration. In particular, strong knowledge is required to predict the result of the interspecic competition in the understory depending upon light availability. The amount of radiation transmitted to the understory is indeed a critical factor determining regeneration dynamics. It determines, at least in part, regeneration composition because of interspecic dierences of growth and survival under shade. Moreover, our quantitative understanding of understory light in uneven-aged and mixed stands remains incomplete. A better quantitative understanding of understory light is needed to provide quantitative guidelines for the management of understory light in uneven-aged and mixed stands and, hence, for the management of natural regeneration. The purpose of this thesis is to determine how close-to-nature forest management can maintain mixtures of species with contrasting shade tolerances. I consider ecological conditions with good water and nutrient supplies. In these conditions, partially closed canopy limits the amount of light that reaches the understory, and light is the major factor driving regeneration composition. Consequently, I study the dynamics of natural regeneration with regards to light availability as well as the interception of light by the canopy of heterogeneous stands. Studying the regeneration ecology of two species with contrasting shade tolerances (Fagus sylvatica L. and Quercus petraea (Matt.) Liebl.), I nd that the shade-tolerant species outgrow the less shade-tolerant species in all light conditions. Even though the control of understory light with continuous-cover silviculture is required to sustain the growth of less shade-tolerant regenerations, it might not be sucient to maintain the coexistence of species with contrasting shade tolerances. In order to examine the eects of canopy structure and composition on understory light availability, I use a model of light interception by heterogeneous canopies after synthesizing and discussing the approaches reported in the literature. The model predicts satisfactorily measures of transmitted light even though it is a relatively simple radiative transfer model. I next explore how various v silvicultural treatments can be manipulated to provide favorable understory light conditions for natural regeneration. These silvicultural strategies correspond to selective thinnings of ve dierent types, e.g., harvesting preferentially small trees, large trees, or trees of shade-tolerant species or creating circular gaps. The results underline that creating favorable understory light conditions for natural regeneration can be achieved with various regeneration treatments. However, the adequate reduction of stand density depends upon the chosen silvicultural strategies. In particular, creating gaps of about 500m2 provides adequate light for small regeneration clumps. Harvesting preferentially small and trees of shade-tolerant species are also appropriate but required higher harvest intensity. Harvesting preferentially large trees slightly increases understory light and promotes more shadetolerant species than less shade-tolerant species. In order to maintain the coexistence of species with contrasting shade tolerances, forest manager must control understory light and, in some cases, manually suppress the regeneration of the shade-tolerant species. The outcome of this study provides foresters with the necessary tools to evaluate how silvicultural treatments can be manipulated to create or maintain favorable light conditions for the regeneration of species of dierent shade tolerances. Guidelines are additionally proposed for forest managers wanting to maintain the coexistence of species with contrasting shade tolerances.
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