Storm legacies shaping post-windthrow forest regeneration: learnings from spatial indices in unmanaged {Norway} spruce stands


The anticipated increase in extreme disturbance events due to climate change is likely to expose Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) dominated forests in northern Europe to new conditions. Empirical data on the resilience of such natural (unmanaged) forests to disturbance and the long-term patterns of regeneration in its aftermath are currently scarce. We performed a quantitative assessment of natural forest stands in north–western Latvia to identify and characterise the patterns of stand structure 44 years after a stand-replacing disturbance and investigated the effects of legacies on regeneration. The spatial distribution of tree species and their dimensions were assessed in 71 circular sample plots (500 m2 each) in natural forest areas, where Norway spruce dominated prior to the windthrow and salvage logging was not carried out. Spatial indices (species mingling index, size differentiation index, and aggregation index) were used to characterise stand structure and diversity. The different initial states (age and coverage of surviving trees) of stands affected eventual tree species dominance, size differentiation, degree of mingling and aggregation. Our results demonstrate a close relationship between disturbance legacies and spatial indices. The pre-storm understory and canopy survivors decreased species mingling, whereas survivors increased size differentiation. The size differentiation increased also with a higher degree of species mingling. Leaving differential post-storm legacies untouched promotes a higher structural and species diversity and therefore supports the management approach of preserving canopy survivors.

European Journal of Forest Research