Folia Geobotanica

, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 407–423 | Cite as

Regionalizing Nutrient Values of Vegetation to Assess Site Fertility of Mountain Forests in the Bavarian Alps

  • Karl Heinz Mellert
  • Jörg Ewald


Height growth and productivity of forests depend on temperature, water and nutrients. Ellenberg indicator values that summarize vegetation response to growth factors are suited to predict site fertility. Macronutrients (NPK), as represented by N-values, are a crucial component of site fertility and susceptibility towards biomass extraction. Based on 1,500 vegetation plots from an inventory stratified over all important forest types of the Bavarian Alps we regionalized Ellenberg N-values against area-wide soil, climate and relief predictors including a spatial effect at a scale of 1 : 25,000, resulting in a general additive model (GAM) with eight predictors and an explained deviance of 53 % on test data. The N-value layer was combined with other regionalized indicator values (temperature, reaction, moisture) to predict height of Norway spruce at reference age (site index) of an independent forest inventory data set, resulting in a GAM with an explained deviance of 35 %. After temperature the nutrient value was the second most important predictor of site index and clearly superior to soil reaction. It can be concluded that forest growth is sensitive to reductions of NPK-availability through whole tree harvesting and that maps of N-values deliver important information for planning sustainable harvesting.


Biomass harvesting Ellenberg indicator values Forest nutrition Forest site Generalized additive models Norway spruce Nutrient availability Site index Spatial autocorrelation Understorey vegetation 



The research presented here forms part of the project “Forest Information System for the Northern Alps” (, which is funded by the European Fund for Regional Development (EFRE) within the “INTERREG Bayern – Österreich 2007–2013” programme, the Bavarian Forest Administration and the Bavaria State Forest Enterprise. We are indebted to the Bavarian State Institute of Forestry’s “Maps for the future” crew. Forest inventory data were obtained from the Bavarian State Forest Institution, the digital elevation model was obtained from the Bavarian Topographical Survey (LVG), soil maps were obtained from the Bavarian State Agency for the Environment (LfU) and climate data were obtained from German Meteorological Service (DWD). We thank our colleagues Barbara Michler, Birgit Reger, Hagen Fischer, Tim Häring, Hajo Klemmt and Sebastian Osenstetter for preparation of valuable data and for lively discussions about spatial modeling.

Supplementary material

12224_2013_9167_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (60 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 59 kb)


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Copyright information

© Institute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of ForestryUniversity of Applied Sciences Weihenstephan TriesdorfFreisingGermany

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