Managing understory light to maintain a mixture of species with different shade tolerance.
Gauthier Ligot, Philippe Balandier, Benoit Courbaud, Mathieu Jonard, Daniel Kneeshaw, Hugues Claessens.
Close-to-nature management of forests has been increasingly advocated. However forest managers often face difficulties in maintaining mixtures of species with different shade tolerance. In uneven aged stand management, understory light can be manipulated by modifying stand structure and composition, in addition to stand density. Using a forest radiative transfer model, we analyzed how different cutting strategies could modify light availability under the post-harvest canopy. To calibrate the model, we measured and mapped trees in 27 plots with structures ranging from secondary-successional oak forests to late-successional beech forests. We measured understory light and crown openness and verified that our forest radiative transfer model well captured the variability of understory light among the studied stands (R2=87%). We then compared cutting strategies varying in type and intensity and provided indications to promote the regeneration of mixtures of species of different shade tolerances. In particular, creating gaps of about 500m2 provided adequate light for small regeneration clumps. Cutting from below, species-specific cutting and uniform cutting were also appropriate for tree regeneration but uniform cutting required higher harvest intensity. Cutting from above slightly increased understory light and promoted more shade tolerant species. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.