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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Restoring mixed forests through conversion of Norway spruce stands: effects of fencing and mechanical site preparation on performance of planted beech and natural tree regeneration

Lof, Magnus; Festin, Emma Sandell; Szydlo, Mateusz; Brunet, Jorg

Abstract

Conversion of Norway spruce (Picea abies) plantations to more diverse and resilient forest types is an important task for European forest managers in the face of climate change and increased focus on ecosystem services beyond timber production. However, there is a lack of knowledge on how to cost-effectively restore such forests. This study reports the influence of vicinity (distance) of forest type (mixed or spruce), fencing and mechanical site preparation (MSP) on the early performance of planted beech (Fagus sylvatica) seedlings and natural regeneration of other tree species following clear-cuts of Norway spruce in southern Sweden. After 6 years, we found clear effects of fencing and MSP, but not of vicinity of forest type. Fencing had a positive effect on height growth of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) but not on height of planted beech and naturally regenerated birch (Betula pendula, B. pubescens). There was a positive effect of MSP on survival and height growth of planted beech, and on the amount of natural regeneration of Scots pine. We conclude that establishment of beech forest is greatly accelerated by active regeneration approaches such as planting. In addition, the combination of planting beech, natural regeneration of other species, fencing and MSP is effective to promote the transition to mixed and diverse stands with both broadleaves and conifers. Fencing represented the highest cost among the treatments, and its cost-effectiveness depends on the local ungulate browsing pressure. In our study, fencing was critical to protect natural regeneration of Scots pine from browsing. Finally, natural regeneration of birch was abundant in our study and relatively unaffected by fencing and MSP treatments. With time, pre-commercial thinning of the naturally regenerated birch will be needed to maintain a diverse mixture of tree species.

Keywords

Climate change adaptation; Cost-efficient restoration; Rehabilitation; Resilience; Ungulate browsing

Published in

European Journal of Forest Research
2023, Volume: 142, number: 4, pages: 763-772 Publisher: SPRINGER