, Volume 68, Issue 3, pp 145–156 | Cite as

Ecological gradients of boreal forests in South Finland: an ordination test of Cajander's forest site type theory

  • Tapani Lahti
  • Risto A. Väisänen


Ecological gradients in the field layer of southern boreal forests in South Finland were studied in relation to the dominant tree species and the age of forest stands. The data are from a systematic sample of 529 plots from an area of 150 × 200 km, collected in the Third National Forest Inventory in 1951–53. Detrended correspondence analysis (DCA) was applied to log-transformed species cover values. It revealed three main gradients: fertility, moisture, and the effect of cattle grazing in forests (still extensive in the early 1950's). The fertility gradient dominated the first axis and the two latter sources of variation confounded with it in a complex manner in the first two axes of DCA. The second DCA axis was associated with canopy effects on understory pattern, with Pinus and Picea having opposite and Betula intermediate effects.

These results were compared with an ordination model of Cajander's forest site types, based on DCA of independent, ideal data of 107 indicator species. The fertility gradient recovered by the model was almost identical to that obtained from the field data. The gradient was also stable from intermediate-age (40–69 yrold) to older forests. The forest site types showed rather large overlaps with main neighbouring types in composition of ground vegetation or nutrient status of the humus. Competitively efficient feather-mosses, which are dependent on nutrients released from the tree crowns, are considered important regulators of the understory vegetation. Accordingly, alternative approaches to the forest site type classification to be used in boreal forests treated by modern intensive forestry should give more weight to the effect of the canopy trees.


Boreal forest region Canopy-understory interaction Climax Correspondence analysis Forest site type Grazing Nutrient Ordination 


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Copyright information

© Dr W. Junk Publishers 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tapani Lahti
    • 1
  • Risto A. Väisänen
    • 2
  1. 1.Botanical MuseumUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Zoological MuseumUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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