European Journal of Forest Research

, Volume 138, Issue 6, pp 991–1003 | Cite as

Early natural regeneration patterns of woody species within gaps in a temperate secondary forest

  • Deliang Lu
  • Guangqi Zhang
  • Jiaojun ZhuEmail author
  • G. Geoff Wang
  • Chunyu Zhu
  • Qiaoling Yan
  • Jinxin Zhang
Original Paper


Forest gaps are important small-scale disturbances that initiate forest succession. However, natural regeneration patterns within gaps remain unclear, especially in temperate secondary forests. In this study, three-dimensional graphic systems were established to show the whole regeneration patterns of woody species with different shade tolerance in natural gaps. Furthermore, all gaps were classified into three size classes, and each gap was divided into two parts, canopy gaps (CGs) and gap peripheries (GPs). A total of 34 woody species were found in the 41 surveyed gaps, but almost no tree species had a high importance value index (≥ 0.100). Total plant density decreased from the small gaps to the large gaps, showing a density trend similar to that of shade-tolerant species. Total species richness peaked in the medium gaps, which indicated that medium gaps could provide moderate environments for most woody species. Both the species richness and plant density of shade-tolerant species were lower in CGs than in GPs, regardless of gap sizes. In contrast, both the species richness and plant density of shade-intolerant species were higher in CGs than in GPs. Interestingly, intermediate shade-tolerant species exhibited a “doughnut” regeneration pattern in the large gaps, which indicated that they could neither compete with shade-intolerant species in CGs nor invade GPs occupied by shade-tolerant species. Our findings suggest that gap formation could benefit woody species regeneration, but subsequent treatments based on gap silviculture are needed to eliminate low-value species and manage target tree species, which would help accelerate the restoration of secondary forests.


Gap regeneration Woody species Shade tolerance Natural disturbance Secondary forest 



This study was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31330016). We thank the editors of the European Journal of Forest Research and all anonymous reviewers for their critical comments and helpful suggestions to this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CAS Key Laboratory of Forest Ecology and ManagementInstitute of Applied EcologyShenyangChina
  2. 2.Qingyuan Forest CERN, Chinese Academy of SciencesShenyangChina
  3. 3.Guizhou UniversityGuiyangChina
  4. 4.Department of Forestry and Environmental ConservationClemson UniversityClemsonUSA
  5. 5.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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