Plant and Soil

, Volume 381, Issue 1–2, pp 61–70 | Cite as

Stand composition, proximity to overstory trees and gradients of soil moisture influence patterns of subalpine fir seedling emergence and survival

  • Joshua R. Buck
  • Samuel B. St. ClairEmail author
Regular Article


Background and Aims

We experimentally examined how variability in mixed forest stand composition, spatial relationships to dominant trees and their environmental correlates influence seedling emergence and survival.


Fir seeds were placed at distances of 1 and 25 cm in each cardinal direction at the base of mature aspen and fir trees and in interspaces in aspen dominant, mixed and conifer dominant stands and in adjacent meadows. Fir seedling emergence, mortality, water relations and foliar nutrition were determined and soil moisture was measured.


Subalpine fir germination was 9 and 13 fold greater, and seedling mortality was lower in aspen stands than mixed and conifer dominated stands. Germination was two-fold greater at the base of aspen trees compared to fir trees and stand interspaces and was significantly greater on the north side of aspen trees. Soil moisture was greatest in aspen dominated stands, with the highest soil moisture conditions occurring at the base of aspen trees and in interspaces. Fir seedlings had better water relations when growing next to aspen trees and had significantly higher foliar N and P in aspen stands.


Aspen appear to facilitate fir establishment by creating favorable soil resource and light conditions that increase germination rates and seedling survival.


Abies Aspen Facilitation Germination Light Populus tremuloides 



We gratefully acknowledge Bob Campbell and the Fishlake National Forest for supporting our research, Kevin Horn for field assistance, Alysa Defranco for sample preparation and the Charles Redd Foundation for funding.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant and Wildlife SciencesBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA

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