Does the persistence of sweet chestnut depend on cultural inputs? Regeneration, recruitment, and mortality in Quercus- and Castanea-dominated forests
Quercus secondary forests show a gradual transition toward mixed forests, with sweet chestnut ( Castanea sativa ) becoming increasingly abundant in the western Spanish Central System. Additionally, in chestnut-dominated stands, it shows a certain resistance to competitive displacement by Quercus pyrenaica . Our results partially refute the traditional view that C. sativa is unable to recruit in the absence of cultural inputs.
Sweet chestnut, Castanea sativa, is a component of European broadleaf forests and is one of the most managed trees. Due to a reduction in cultural inputs, chestnut-dominated stands tend to be invaded by other species, and it is unclear how chestnut is able to persist in natural mixed forests.
Our work aimed to identity the main factors that limit the establishment of C. sativa and to analyze the recruitment and mortality processes of C. sativa trees.
The age, growth ring patterns, regeneration density, and the spatial structure of trees and saplings in 11 plots in the Spanish Central System were analyzed.
Chestnut seedling density increased with C. sativa basal area, but transition toward the sapling stage appeared limited owing to light availability. In Quercus pyrenaica secondary forests, sparse canopies did not constrain chestnut regeneration, and in old chestnut stands, C. sativa showed a certain resistance to competitive displacement. By contrast, mixed young coppices showed a high mortality, most likely due to competition with other vigorous resprouters.
Quercus secondary forests showed a gradual transition toward mixed forests with sweet chestnut becoming increasingly more abundant. In old stands, C. sativa is likely to persist under a gap-phase mode of regeneration. Our results partially refute the traditional view that C. sativa is unable to recruit in the absence of cultural inputs.
KeywordsChestnut recruitment Quercus pyrenaica Secondary forest Tree mortality Forest succession
We thank the staff forestry agency of the Regional Government of Castile & Leon, especially Luis Carlos Jovellar, Alfonso Sarmiento, Ricardo Alonso-Bartol and Pedro Gómez, for the information and support provided during this study. The samples were collected under the Regional Government permits LASM/egc (2012, 2016). We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Mª Esther González and Emma Keck kindly corrected the English.
This study was funded by research Grants for Master’s projects administered by the Master’s program in Biology and Conservation of Biodiversity of the University of Salamanca, Spain.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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