At Home in Nature

  (Agate, Colorado)
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Debris essential to reforestation

Drs. Tomasz Zielonka and Mats Nildasson (Ecological Bulletins, 2001. 49:159-163) of the Institute of Botany in the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Southern Sweedish Forest Research Center of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences remark how important it is for dead wood to be present in a healthy forest. However, when reforesting, it is necessary and beneficial to introduce your own deadwood. In establishing the windbreaks you read about in today’s Herald, remember that the deadwood, as it decomposes, improves the soil and, in the time that the lowest levels of the windbreak decompose, the tree roots will be seeking the vital organic material there. A thick layer of mulch near the trees will not go amiss, either. Deadwood, according to the Doctors, significantly assists the establishment of new trees and the regeneration of forests.

We investigated regeneration patterns and dead wood dynamics in high altitude natural Norway spruce Picea abies forest in the Tatra Mountains, Polish Western Carpathians, and used dendrochronological cross-dating to asses the age of fallen logs. We compared the exact time since tree death with physical features reflected in a 5-degree classification of the decomposition stage. In more decayed logs where wood samples were impossible to cross-date we used the maximum age of saplings growing on logs as an indicator of minimum log age. The total volume of dead wood on the forest floor was ca 60 m³ / ha. Dead wood covered ca 5% of the forest floor. The log ages were for class A (least decayed) -- up to 4 yr, for class B: 8-44 yr and for class C: 44-115 yr. The minimum age of the most decayed classes D and E was estimated to 50 and 60 yr, respectively. One year-old seedlings were present on logs of all decay stages except on fresh windbreaks and windthrows of class A. The highest number of seedlings was found on logs in decay classes C and D which indicates that the middle stage of decomposed wood is the best substrate for germination. The successful cross-dating of over one hundred years old spruce logs is an evidence that some portion of fallen logs may escape fast deterioration even in species normally regarded as not resistant to decay.
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