Tree- and stand-scale factors shape the probability of wind damage to birch in hemiboreal forests


Strong wind is the major natural disturbance in European forests, that periodically causes tremendous damages to forestry. Yet, factors that affect the probability of wind damage for birch (Betula pendula Roth and B. pubescens Ehrh.), the most common deciduous tree species in hemiboreal forests, are studied scarcely. This study aimed to assess the effects of several tree- and stand-scale variables on the probability of wind damage to birch using data from the Latvian National Forest Inventory (2004–2018), and determine individual tree characteristics that affect the height of the stem breakage. The data analysis was done using the Bayesian binary logistic generalized linear mixed-effects model and a linear mixed-effects model. The probability of wind damage significantly increased by stand age, basal area, and slenderness ratio. Trees with prior damage had a significantly higher probability (odds ratio 4.32) for wind damage. For wind-damaged trees, the snapping height was significantly decreased by an increase in the slenderness ratio (p = 0.03) and prior damage (p = 0.003). Previously damaged trees were more frequently (73%) snapped in the lowest 40% of tree height than trees without prior damage (54%). The probability of wind damage is largely set by factors related to the selection of site, species composition, and rotation. The damage probability could be decreased by management measures that lower competition within the stand with particular regard to preserving intact remaining trees during these manipulations. Factors that reduce the probability of the damage simultaneously increase the snapping height, emphasizing their relevance for mitigation of the wind damages.

Silva Fennica