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Oak-Cluster planting: Intra- and interspecific competition differently influence stem quality

  

Intra- and interspecific competition differently influence growth and stem quality of young oaks (Quercus robur L. and Quercus petraea (Mattuschka) Liebl.)

 
Somidh Saha, Christian Kuehne and Jürgen Bauhus.


Context
Cluster planting has become a conventional establishment method for oaks in Central Europe, where the spacing of seedlings within clusters varies between ‘nests’ (0.2 × 0.2 m) and ‘groups’ (1 × 1 m). Although the space between clusters is expected to fill with voluntary regeneration, its competitive effect on oak growth and quality had not been studied yet.

Aims
The aim of the study was to analyse the effects of inter- and intraspecific interactions on growth and quality of oaks grown in cluster plantings by quantifying the influence of neighbouring trees. In addition, we analysed whether the spatial position of oaks within groups (inner section or periphery) influenced their quality development.

Methods
Using Hegyi’s competition index, the influence of competition from intra- and interspecific trees from early, mid- and late-successional species, on diameter, height, slenderness and quality (length of branch-free bole) of 10- to 26-year-old oaks grown in cluster planting stands was quantified at seven sites in Baden-Württemberg and Hessen, Germany.

Results
In general, mid- and late-successional trees exerted a stronger competitive influence on growth of target oaks in clusters than the conspecific oaks and pioneer tree species. Oak quality development benefited from intraspecific competition, but self-pruning was not further promoted through additional interspecific competition. Within groups, inner oaks had a higher probability of developing into potential future crop trees than outer oaks.

Conclusion

Our study showed that intra- and interspecific competition had different effects on target oak trees and that these effect differed between nest and group plantings. The development of naturally regenerated and planted trainer trees in group plantings should be monitored carefully and if necessary be controlled through thinning or pollarding.

 

 

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