Is selective thinning an adequate practice for adapting Quercus ilex coppices to climate change?
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Future climatic scenarios demand an increasing involvement of management for forest preservation, but little is known on how forestry practices will benefit stands in facing variation of climatic components.
We investigated how selective thinning affected the response of an old Quercus ilex coppice to 6 years of throughfall reduction. Plots thinned from below (≈30% basal area removal) and unthinned plots were subject to either throughfall exclusion (TE; ≈33% throughfall reduction) or normal rainfall. Stem diameter growth, stem survival, and seed and sprout production were measured.
TE did not have a significant effect on stem growth but it reduced the production of viable acorns. Also, in the absence of thinning, TE accelerated the mortality of small stems and stimulated the emergence of new sprouts. Thinning reduced stem mortality, enhanced growth of residual stems, and caused a profuse emission of resprouts. Thinning also increased total seed production, but the crop had a large proportion of aborted seeds, especially in those areas subject to TE.
The mere elimination of suppressed and diseased stems in abandoned Q. ilex coppice stands helps remaining trees to cope with current and future (probably longer and more intense) droughts. Potentially drier conditions might attenuate the success of thinning in producing a viable seed crop.
KeywordsStem growth Seed production Sprouting Drought Forest adaptation strategy
J. R-C and I.M. P-R were supported by postdoctoral fellowships from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation. We are grateful to Raquel Rodríguez for assistance in the field and to Laurent Misson for constructive comments on a previous version of the manuscript. This work was supported by the European project MIND (EVK2-CT-2002-000158).
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