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Post-fire spread of alien plant species in a mixed broad-leaved forest of the Insubric region

Janet Maringer, Thomas Wohlgemuth, Christophe Neff, Gianni B. Pezzatti, Marco Conedera

How do tree species regenerate and which ecological conditions are required after forest fire in the Insubric region of the Alps? Are indigenous stand-forming tree species resistant over the invasion of alien plant species after such a disturbance? We addressed these questions in a case study in the Swiss canton of Ticino. In April 2006, a surface fire with severe intensity burnt a forest area of 55 ha on a south-facing slope (400–800 m.a.s.l.). The dominant trees in the investigated area were chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.), beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) and deciduous oaks (Quercus spp.) mixed with tree species of intermediate height. Vegetation data were collected in May and August 2009 by systematic sampling. Resprouting of the survived trees and generative regeneration were analysed by counting vegetative shoots from sprouting stools, of seedling age, height and damage rate, respectively. Different vegetation structures related to low or high fire intensity were clearly visible three years after the forest fire, creating various habitats for both new invaders and seedlings of the stand-forming trees. The dominant chestnut was the only tree species that regenerated effectively by sprouting from stools. Seedlings of the stand-forming trees grew in high abundance under shadow conditions close to their mother trees which provided the seed source. In contrast, pioneer trees invaded patches where full light was available. Under such conditions the two main woody alien plant species, Ailanthus altissima and Robinia pseudoacacia, grew in high abundance. Due to the different ecological requirements of indigenous and alien tree seedlings, not any interaction between the two groups was detected.

Flora - Morphology, Distribution, Functional Ecology of Plants, Vol. 207, No. 1. (January 2012), pp. 19-29, 
Key: INRMM:14404194



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