European Journal of Forest Research

, Volume 135, Issue 2, pp 377–387 | Cite as

Apical dominance ratio as an indicator of the growth conditions favouring Abies alba natural regeneration under Mediterranean environment

  • Francesco RipulloneEmail author
  • Tiziana Gentilesca
  • Marco Lauteri
  • Angelo Rita
  • Anna Rita Rivelli
  • Aldo Schettino
  • Marco Borghetti
Original Paper


As reported in several studies, the presence of Abies alba Mill (silver fir) has been declining throughout its natural range over a large part of mountainous belt in the Mediterranean area. In such a context, regeneration establishment depends mainly on the occurrence of a suitable combination of water and light availability. Thus, before planning any forest management practice, it is essential to investigate on the optimal microclimate conditions influencing the success of natural regeneration of silver fir. To this aim, changes in growth and photosynthesis together with C, N and O isotope compositions have been investigated on silver fir naturally recruited saplings, growing in mixed stands with Fagus sylvatica on Apennine mountains (southern Italy). The apical dominance ratio (ADR, ratio between apical shoot length and length of first whorl lateral twigs) has been used as an indicator for microclimate conditions in which saplings grow. Based on the range of ADR values (i.e. from 0.10 to 1.30), saplings were distributed in four classes. As expected, increases in height, root collar diameter and radial growth correspond to enhancing ADR values, gaining the optimal conditions in class IV. This latter also displayed the best performance in terms of maximum CO2 assimilation at saturating light (A max) and water-use efficiency as assessed by carbon isotope discrimination analysis. Conversely, class I and II seem to display the highest performance in terms of CO2 respiration rate (R d) and absolute water loss saving as assessed by the application of oxygen isotopes. We conclude that, in relatively mild Mediterranean areas, forest managers should promote silvicultural treatments favouring light conditions and migration of saplings towards class IV of ADR. This class represents the optimal microclimate for regeneration establishment of silver fir.


Apical dominance ratio Light environment Photosynthesis Silver fir regeneration Stable isotopes Water-use efficiency 



This research was supported by the Pollino National Park in the framework of the strategic project “Un laboratorio naturale permanente nel Parco Nazionale del Pollino”, local supervisor Prof. Marco Borghetti. Mr. Luciano Spaccino is duly acknowledged for his skilfulness in IRMS analyses.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesco Ripullone
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tiziana Gentilesca
    • 1
  • Marco Lauteri
    • 2
  • Angelo Rita
    • 1
  • Anna Rita Rivelli
    • 1
  • Aldo Schettino
    • 3
  • Marco Borghetti
    • 1
  1. 1.Scuola di Scienze Agrarie, Forestali, Alimentari e dell’AmbienteUniversità della BasilicataPotenzaItaly
  2. 2.Istituto di Biologia Agroambientale e ForestaleCNRPoranoItaly
  3. 3.Ente Parco Nazionale del Pollino, Complesso Monumentale Santa Maria della ConsolazioneRotondaItaly

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