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Title: Establishment and growth of white spruce on a boreal forest floodplain: interactions between microclimate and mammalian herbivory

Author: Angell, Amy C.; Kielland, Knut.;

Date: 2009

Source: Forest Ecology and Management. 258: 2475-2480

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: White spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss) is a dominant species in late-successional ecosystems along the Tanana River, interior Alaska, and the most important commercial timber species in these boreal floodplain forests. Whereas white spruce commonly seed in on young terraces in early primary succession, the species does not become a conspicuous component of the vegetation until after 60-80 years. To address what abiotic and/or biotic factors may explain the paucity of spruce in earlier stages of succession, we examined germination and growth of planted white spruce seedlings across an environmental gradient that included variation in soil physico-chemical properties in the presence and absence of mammal browsing. The effect of browsing pressure over the first four years after planting was most noticeable on the older terraces. Likewise, direct effects of hare browsing on spruce seedling mortality were only manifested at the oldest sites. Spruce germination and survival was inversely proportional to soil cation concentrations, which was largely controlled by temperature-driven evapotranspiration. High light intensities and high air temperatures significantly reduced seedling growth, whereas variation in soil moisture only explained a significant amount of variation in seedling survival. Temperatures within the needle clusters on terminal shoots reached values that adversely affect photosynthesis on multiple occasions over the growing season. We conclude that the direct (temperature) and indirect (soil chemistry) effects of high insolation are major factors constraining spruce performance on early-successional terraces, and that these effects can be significantly exacerbated by mammal browsing on associated deciduous vegetation.

Keywords: Alaska, boreal forest, ecophysiology, herbivory, microclimate, white spruce

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Angell, Amy C.; Kielland, Knut. 2009. Establishment and growth of white spruce on a boreal forest floodplain: interactions between microclimate and mammalian herbivory. Forest Ecology and Management. 258(11): 2475-2480.


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