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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Environmental controls on seedling establishment in a boreal forest: implications for Scots pine regeneration in continuous cover forestry

Haggstrom, Bodil; Gundale, Michael J.; Nordin, Annika


In nutrient poor and dry forest sites common to northern Scandinavia, Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) is the most common species both in managed and natural forests. However, Scots pine is sensitive to competition during establishment. Harvesting of all trees within a given area, i.e., clear-cutting, liberates regenerating seedlings from competition with mature trees. However, recently, clear-cut-free or continuous cover forestry has been the subject of substantial debate. When choosing a management method, it is important to recognize how competitive interactions direct the success of Scots pine regeneration. We studied Scots pine regeneration at three environments: beneath the canopy of mature trees, at the canopy edge in full sunlight, and distant from the canopy with no influence of mature trees. We imposed three treatments in each of these environments: root isolation (i.e., trenching), nitrogen (N) fertilization, and control plots. Root isolation enhanced seedling performance under the canopy of mature trees. Nitrogen fertilization enhanced seedling performance to a greater extent in the clear-cut than at the forest edge. However, N fertilization had no effect under the canopy. In the N-fertilized plots, we measured higher N content in the soil under the canopy than in the open environments, indicating that not all excess N was obtained by the mature trees. N-uptake might have been limited by competition for water in the N-fertilized plots. Our results suggest that belowground competition limits the success of regeneration of Scots pine. However, N fertilization presents a tool to compensate for underground competition along canopy edges.


Continuous cover forestry; Scots pine; Tree regeneration; Belowground competition; Clear-cutting; Forest growth

Published in

European Journal of Forest Research
2024, Volume: 143, number: 1, pages: 95-106
Publisher: SPRINGER