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Age and growth patterns of old Norway spruce trees in Trillemarka forest, Norway

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Old trees represent key features of old-growth forests and are important elements for maintaining biodiversity. Due to extensive human exploitation of Fennoscandian boreal forests during several centuries, old Norway spruce trees have become exceedingly rare. We analysed 91 spruce trees in Trillemarka Nature Reserve, southern Norway, to investigate (1) the maximum age of living trees, (2) growth rates of different-age trees and (3) growth trends in very old trees. Increment cores were taken from trees in selected old-growth stands located at 700–850 m a.s.l. Twelve spruce trees had an estimated total age of >400 years, the oldest one being 529 years and presumably the oldest known still living Norway spruce in northern Europe. A negative relationship between growth rate (basal area increment) and total age was observed, being most distinct for growth rates at 126–275 years and less marked for early stage growth (26–75 years). Thus, high age apparently was related more to low growth rates at adult and old stages of life rather than at the earlier stage. Among the trees >400 years, many of them did not show growth decrease with advancing age, indicating that ageing did not reduce growth. We conclude that the maximum age of stand-forming Fennoscandian Norway spruce trees would be in the range of 500–600 years.

Keywords: Age; Picea abies; dendrochronology; longevity; tree growth

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of AgroSelviTer,University of Turin, Grugliasco, Italy 2: Norwegian Forest Research Institute, Høgskoleveien 12NO-1432,Ås, Norway

Publication date: April 1, 2013

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