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Doctoral thesis, 2011

Effects of facilitation and competition on oak seedlings

Jensen Anna Monrad


Plant–plant interactions have been indicated as a potential means to facilitate oak seedling establishment and reduce herbivory when restoring oak forests. The aim of this thesis was to investigate mechanisms and outcomes of competitive and indirectly facilitative interactions between oak (Quercus robur and Q. petraea) seedlings and neighboring plants, primarily shrubs. The associational resistance of planted oak seedlings to larger herbivores provided by naturally occurring shrubs was tested in ten temperate broadleaved forests across southern Sweden. The results showed that shrubs reduced ungulate browsing frequency and intensity by concealing the oak seedlings and by sharing enemies (i.e. ungulate herbivores) with surrounding and more preferred shrub species, thus providing numeric dilution and associational plant refuges. The occurrence of naturally regenerated oak seedlings, five years after a conservation-oriented thinning, was negatively influenced by the presence of tall ground vegetation and positively influenced by high soil moisture. For oak seedlings planted in an open field, shrubs indirectly facilitated biomass accumulation by reducing competition from herbaceous vegetation. However, shrubs became net competitors three years after planting. The oak seedling response, in terms of biomass accumulation, transpiration and photosynthesis, to competition from shrubs was proportional to resource availability. Aboveground competition for light had a greater effect on oak seedling growth than belowground competition. Nevertheless, oak seedlings were able to produce a second shoot flush, over-topping the shrub canopy. This periodic flushing enabled light-acclimation in a stratified light environment. In conclusion, management of shrubs has the potential to reduce browsing and herbaceous competitors during oak regeneration, particularly during the first years after planting. Although shrubs alone may not replace fences as an effective means of reducing browsing on oaks, they provide a complement to improve the growth of seedlings during the early stages of establishment.


quercus robur; quercus petraea; seedlings; reforestation; browsing damage; light; gas exchange; translocation; phenology; plant competition

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2011, number: 2011:58
ISBN: 978-91-576-7602-3
Publisher: Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre, Swedish university of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Jensen, Anna M
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre

UKÄ Subject classification

Forest Science

URI (permanent link to this page)