European Journal of Forest Research

, Volume 129, Issue 3, pp 249–259 | Cite as

Canopy gaps in an old-growth fir-beech forest remnant of Western Carpathians

  • Stanislav KucbelEmail author
  • Peter Jaloviar
  • Milan Saniga
  • Jaroslav Vencurik
  • Vladimír Klimaš
Original Paper


The old-growth forest remnants of Western Carpathians provide a unique possibility to study the disturbance regimes of forest ecosystems without human influence. This study investigated the gap dynamics in beech-dominated old-growth forest Badínsky prales in Central Slovakia. Considering the decline of silver fir in last decades, the study analyzed the main characteristics of disturbance regime with the emphasis on the role of fir. On a 5-ha research plot, the dominant tree species was beech, the proportion of fir reached about 10%. However, a significantly higher proportion of fir (>30%) was observed in the coarse woody debris. In total, 45 canopy openings were recorded. Canopy gaps and expanded gaps covered 11.3 and 37.9% of the forest area, respectively. Despite the highest frequency of small gaps <100 m2, their proportion of the overall gap area reached only 20%, what suggests the important role of intermediate and large gaps in the gap dynamics as well. The analysis of gapmakers’ crown projections confirmed a rather low contribution of fir (14.6%) to the gap formation despite its relatively intensive mortality. A high variability of the next generation age between the gaps (6–44 years) was recorded what suggests a large temporal variation of the disturbance events. The lateral expansion of adjacent trees was found to be the determining process for the closure of small canopy openings. The intermediate and large gaps are more likely closed by the height growth of natural regeneration and understory trees that are present on the majority of the area.


Old-growth Canopy gaps Fagus sylvatica Abies alba Disturbance regime 



This study was financially supported by the Slovak Research and Development Agency, project APVV-0082-06. We would like to thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions on earlier version of the manuscript.


  1. Albrecht L (1990) Grundlagen, Ziele und Methodik der waldökologischen Forschung in Naturwaldreservaten. Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Ernährung. Landwirtschaft und Forsten, MünchenGoogle Scholar
  2. Ammer C (1996) Impact of ungulates on structure and dynamics of natural regeneration of mixed mountain forests in the Bavarian Alps. For Ecol Manag 88:43–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Angelstam P, Kuuluvainen T (2004) Boreal forest disturbance regimes, successional dynamics and landscape structures—a European perspective. Ecol Bull 51:117–136Google Scholar
  4. Attiwill PM (1994) The disturbance of forest ecosystems: the ecological basis for conservative management. For Ecol Manag 63:247–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barna M (2008) The effects of cutting regimes on natural regeneration in submountain beech forests: species diversity and abundance. J For Sci 54:533–544Google Scholar
  6. Barnes BB, Zak DR, Denton SR, Spurr SH (1998) Forest ecology. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. Becker M (1989) The role of climate on present and past vitality of silver fir forests in the Vosges mountains of northeastern France. Can J For Res 19:1110–1117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Blaschke H (1982) Schadbild und Ätiologie des Tannensterbens. III. Das Vorkommen einer Phytophthora-Fäule an Feinwurzeln der Weißtanne (Abies alba Mill.). Eur J For Path 12:232–238Google Scholar
  9. Brang P (2005) Virgin forests as a knowledge source for central European silviculture: reality or myth? For Snow Landsc Res 79:19–32Google Scholar
  10. Brokaw NVL, Scheiner SM (1989) Species composition in gaps and structure of a tropical forest. Ecology 70:538–541CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bublinec E, Pichler V (eds) (2001) Slovak primeval forests—diversity and conservation. Institute of Forest Ecology, ZvolenGoogle Scholar
  12. Burschel P, Schmaltz J (1965a) Untersuchungen über die Bedeutung von Unkraut- und Altholzkonkurrenz für junge Buchen. Forstwiss Centbl 84:230–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Burschel P, Schmaltz J (1965b) Die Bedeutung des Lichtes für die Entwicklung junger Buchen. Allg Forst- Jagdztg 136:193–210Google Scholar
  14. Denslow JS (1980) Gap partitioning among tropical rainforest trees. Biotropica 12:47–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Diaci J, Roženbergar D, Mikac S, Anić I, Hartman T, Bončina A (2008) Long-term changes in tree species composition in old-growth dinaric beech-fir forest. Glas Šum Pokuse 42:13–27Google Scholar
  16. Dobrovolný P, Brázdil R (2003) Documentary evidence on strong winds related to convective storms in the Czech Republic since AD 1500. Atmos Res 67–68:98–116Google Scholar
  17. Dobrowolska D (1998) Structure of silver fir (Abies alba Mill.) natural regeneration in the ‘Jata’ reserve in Poland. For Ecol Manag 110:237–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Drössler L, Lüpke B (2005) Canopy gaps in two virgin beech forest reserves in Slovakia. J For Sci 51:446–457Google Scholar
  19. Elling W (1993) Immissionen im Ursachenkomplex von Tannenschädigung und Tannensterben. Allg Forst- Jagdztg 48:87–95Google Scholar
  20. Elling W, Dittmar C, Pfaffelmoser K, Rötzer T (2009) Dendroecological assessment of the complex causes of decline and recovery of the growth of silver fir (Abies alba Mill.) in Southern Germany. For Ecol Manag 257:1175–1187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Emborg J (1998) Understorey light conditions and regeneration with respect to the structural dynamics of a near-natural temperate deciduous forest in Denmark. For Ecol Manag 106:83–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Firm D, Nagel TA, Diaci J (2009) Disturbance history and dynamics of an old-growth mixed species mountain forest in the Slovenian Alps. For Ecol Manag 257:1893–1901CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Franklin JF, Mitchell RJ, Palik BJ (2007) Natural disturbance and stand development principles for ecological forestry. USDA For Ser, Gen Tech Rep NRS-19Google Scholar
  24. Fraser AI (1962) The soil and roots as factors in tree stability. Forestry 35:117–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Frelich LE (2002) Forest dynamics and disturbance regimes: studies from temperate evergreen-deciduous forests. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Harris AS (1989) Wind in the forests of Southeast Alaska and guides for reducing damage. USDA For Ser, Gen Tech Rep PNW-244Google Scholar
  27. Heuze P, Schnitzler A, Klein F (2005) Is browsing the major factor of silver fir decline in the Vosges Mountains of France? For Ecol Manag 217:219–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Holeksa J, Cybulski M (2001) Canopy gaps in a Carpathian subalpine spruce forest. Forstwiss Cent 120:331–348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kenderes K, Mihók B, Standovár T (2008) Thirty years of gap dynamics in a Central European beech forest reserve. Forestry 81:11–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kenderes K, Král K, Vrška T, Standovár T (2009) Natural gap dynamics in a Central European mixed beech–spruce–fir old-growth forest. Ecoscience 16:39–47Google Scholar
  31. Korpeľ Š (1985) Stav a vývoj jedle na Slovensku vo vzťahu k jej odumieraniu. Acta Fac For 27:79–104Google Scholar
  32. Korpeľ Š (1995) Die Urwälder der Westkarpaten. Gustav Fischer Verlag, StuttgartGoogle Scholar
  33. Köstler JN, Brückner E, Bibelriether H (1968) Die Wurzeln der Waldbäume. Parey Verlag, HamburgGoogle Scholar
  34. Krasny ME, Whitmore MC (1992) Gradual and sudden forest canopy gaps in Allegheny northern hardwood forests. Can J For Res 22:139–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Križová E (2000) Lesné spoločenstvá NPR Badínsky prales. Chránené územia Slovenska 46:36–37Google Scholar
  36. Larsen BJ (1986) Das Tannensterben: Eine neue Hypothese zur Klärung des Hintergrundes dieser rätselhaften Komplexkrankheit der Weisstanne (A. alba Mill.). Forstwiss Centbl 105:381–396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Leibundgut H (1974) Zum Problem des Tannensterbens. Schweiz Z Forstwes 125:476–484Google Scholar
  38. Leibundgut H (1978) Über die Dynamik europäischer Urwälder. Allg Forst Z 33:686–690Google Scholar
  39. Mayer H, Ott E (1991) Gebirgswaldbau–Schutzwaldpflege, Gustav Fischer Verlag, StuttgartGoogle Scholar
  40. McCarthy J (2001) Gap dynamics of forest trees: a review with particular attention to boreal forests. Environ Rev 9:1–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mitchell RJ, Hunter ML, Palik BJ (2002) Natural disturbance as a guide to silviculture—preface. For Ecol Manag 155:315–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Motta R (1996) Impact of wild ungulates on forest regeneration and tree composition of mountain forests in the western Italian Alps. For Ecol Manag 88:93–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Müller-Using S, Bartsch N (2003) Totholzdynamik eines Buchenbestandes (Fagus sylvatica L.) im Solling. Nachlieferung, Ursache, und Zersetzung von Totholz. Allg Forst- Jagdztg 174:122–130Google Scholar
  44. Nagel TA, Diaci J (2006) Intermediate wind disturbance in an old-growth beech–fir forest in southeastern Slovenia. Can J For Res 36:629–638CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Nagel TA, Svoboda M (2008) Gap disturbance regime in an old-growth Fagus–Abies forest in the Dinaric Mountains, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Can J For Res 38:2728–2737CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Nagel TA, Svoboda M, Diaci J (2006) Regeneration patterns after intermediate wind disturbance in an old-growth Fagus–Abies forest in southeastern Slovenia. For Ecol Manag 226:268–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Nagel TA, Levanic T, Diaci J (2007) A dendroecological reconstruction of disturbance in an old-growth Fagus–Abies forest in Slovenia. Ann For Sci 64:891–897CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Oliver CD, Larson BC (1996) Forest stand dynamics (Update edition). Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  49. Pedersen BS, Howard JL (2004) The influence of canopy gaps on overstory tree and forest growth rates in a mature mixed-age, mixed-species forest. For Ecol Manag 196:351–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Peterken GF (1996) Natural woodland: ecology and conservation in northern temperate regions. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  51. Potočić N, Ćosić T, Pilaš I (2005) The influence of climate and soil properties on calcium nutrition and vitality of silver fir (Abies alba Mill.). Environ Pollut 137:596–602CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Roloff A (1986) Morphology of crown development in European beech with regard to possibly new modifications. Ber Forschungszent Waldökosysteme Göttingen 18:1–177Google Scholar
  53. Roženbergar D, Mikac S, Anić I, Diaci J (2007) Gap regeneration patterns in relationship to light heterogeneity in two old-growth beech–fir forest reserves in South East Europe. Forestry 80:431–443CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Runkle JR (1982) Patterns of disturbance in some old-growth mesic forests of eastern North America. Ecology 63:1533–1546CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Runkle JR (1985) Disturbance regimes in temperate forests. In: Pickett STA, White PS (eds) The ecology of natural disturbance and patch dynamics. Academic Press, Orlando, pp 17–33Google Scholar
  56. Runkle JR (1998) Changes in southern Appalachian canopy tree gaps sampled thrice. Ecology 79:1768–1780CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Šály R, Petrík M (1975) Výskum abiotického prostredia prírodných a prirodzených lesov. Záverečná správa výskumnej úlohy VI-5-5/11, LF VŠLD ZvolenGoogle Scholar
  58. Saniga M (1999) Štruktúra, produkčné pomery a regeneračné procesy Badínskeho pralesa. J For Sci 45:121–130Google Scholar
  59. Saniga M, Richter F (2006) Štruktúra prechodného lesa v jeho záverečnej fáze v Badínskom pralese. In: Jurásek A, Novák J, Slodičák M (eds) Stabilisation of forest functions in biotopes disturbed by anthrophogenic activity. Forestry and Game Management Research Institute, Opočno, pp 239–248Google Scholar
  60. Senn J, Suter W (2003) Ungulate browsing on silver fir (Abies alba) in the Swiss Alps: beliefs in search of supporting data. For Ecol Manag 181:151–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Seymour RS, White AS, deMaynadier PG (2002) Natural disturbance regimes in northeastern North America—evaluating silvicultural systems using natural scales and frequencies. For Ecol Manag 155:357–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Šmelko Š (2000) Dendrometria. Vydavateľstvo Technickej univerzity, ZvolenGoogle Scholar
  63. Spies TA, Franklin JF (1989) Gap characteristics and vegetation response in coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest. Ecology 70:543–545CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Splechtna BE, Gratzer G (2005) Natural disturbances in Central European forests: approaches and preliminary results from Rothwald, Austria. For Snow Landsc Res 79:57–67Google Scholar
  65. Splechtna BE, Gratzer G, Black BA (2005) Disturbance history of a European old-growth mixed-species forest—a spatial dendro-ecological analysis. J Veg Sci 16:511–522Google Scholar
  66. Szwagrzyk J, Szewczyk J, Bodziarczyk J (2001) Dynamics of seedling banks in beech forest: results of a 10-year study on germination, growth and survival. For Ecol Manag 141:237–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Tabaku V (2000) Struktur von Buchen-Urwäldern in Albanien im Vergleich mit deutschen Buchen-Naturwaldreservaten und -Wirtschaftswäldern. Cuvillier Verlag, GöttingenGoogle Scholar
  68. Tabaku V, Meyer P (1999) Lückenmuster albanischer und mitteleuropäischer Buchenwälder unterschiedlicher Nutzungsintensität. Forstarchiv 70:87–97Google Scholar
  69. Vrška T, Adam D, Hort L, Kolář T, Janík D (2009) European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) and silver fir (Abies alba Mill.) rotation in the Carpathians—A developmental cycle or a linear trend induced by man? For Ecol Manag 258:347–356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. White PS, Pickett STA (1985) Natural disturbance and patch dynamics: an introduction. In: Pickett STA, White PS (eds) The ecology of natural disturbance and patch dynamics. Academic Press, Orlando, pp 3–13Google Scholar
  71. Whitmore TC (1989) Canopy gaps and the two major groups of forest trees. Ecology 70:536–538CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Yamamoto S, Nishimura N (1999) Canopy gap formation and replacement pattern of major tree species among developmental stages of beech (Fagus crenata) stands, Japan. Plant Ecol 140:167–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Zeibig A, Diaci J, Wagner S (2005) Gap disturbance patterns of a Fagus sylvatica virgin forest remnant in the mountain vegetation belt of Slovenia. For Snow Landsc Res 79:69–80Google Scholar
  74. Zlatník A (1976) Lesnická fytocenologie. SZN, PrahaGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stanislav Kucbel
    • 1
    Email author
  • Peter Jaloviar
    • 1
  • Milan Saniga
    • 1
  • Jaroslav Vencurik
    • 1
  • Vladimír Klimaš
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Forestry, Department of SilvicultureTechnical UniversityZvolenSlovakia

Personalised recommendations