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Forest characteristics and their variation along the lakeshore-upland ecotone

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In forestry operations riparian buffer zones have been retained mainly to protect water quality. Because riparian forests are also important for maintaining terrestrial biodiversity, the associated ecotones need to be characterized and defined. Forest characteristics were studied along 50 m lakeshore-upland gradients in semi-natural forests in boreonemoral Sweden. Significant changes in the density of living and dead trees, as well as in their diameters, were recorded. The edge influence was generally discernible 10-30 m from the shoreline and was manifested in the very high density of understorey and midcanopy trees. The species-specific responses reflected the known shade and flooding tolerances of tree species. Most dead trees were standing, or broken from the roots or tree base; relatively few uprooted trees were recorded, suggesting that wind is only a moderate mortality factor. In comparison with the literature, the studied lakeshore forests are distinct from managed and set-aside upland forests in terms of tree species composition and woody debris characteristics; they thus contribute to landscape heterogeneity. If buffer zones along lakes were designed so that they captured the entire riparian ecotone, this would increase their contribution to the conservation of terrestrial biodiversity.

Keywords: Alnus; buffer zone; disturbance; forest structure; riparian edge; woody debris

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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