Browsing Crops, Environment & Land Use Programme by Subject "Underplanting"
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Morphological and physiological responses of Fagus sylvatica and Quercus robur seedlings to light availabilityThe need to develop forest management systems other than clearfelling has resulted in a requirement for improved understanding of the potential of continuous cover forestry (CCF). One suggested method for the conversion of forest stands into CCF systems and for bringing under-performing forests into productivity is thinning in conjunction with underplanting. This study was an attempt to provide information on species suitability for underplanting of two important trees in European forestry: pedunculate oak (Quercus robur L.) and European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.). To determine the morphological, physiological and growth responses of these two species to different light conditions, beech and oak seedlings previously grown at full light for two years were covered by shading nets that provide different shade levels (62%, 51% or 28% of full light) or continued to be exposed to full light. The different shade levels were intended to mimic a range of underplanted conditions and the process of acclimation to shade was studied to provide information on the ecology and adaptation of underplanted seedlings. In addition to the controlled-shade experiment another study to determine the physiological responses of beech natural regeneration to shade was conducted under natural light conditions (from open gaps to closed canopy). Both oak and beech displayed similar acclimation in response to shade for most of the traits investigated. At the plant level, seedling acclimation to shade included higher biomass allocation to above than below-ground parts and greater energy investment on height than diameter growth. At the leaf level, seedlings grown under shade reduced their leaf thickness and photosynthetic rates per unit area and increased their specific leaf area. This increase in specific leaf area seems to be one mechanism that allows seedlings to perform well under shade conditions. Another acclimation to low light conditions was to increase the efficiency of the photosystem II under shade. Photosynthetic rates were higher and leaves were retained for longer in seedlings grown at full light than under shade. Hence, this probably led to a greater growth in the full light than under shade. Despite this greater growth at full light, the results of this study suggest that beech and oak seedlings would be able to acclimate and perform well if underplanted below overstories that reduce the available light to as low as 28% of full light without having any significant adverse effect on the quality of the final crop.