Questions: As a consequence of socio-economic changes, many Castanea sativa coppices have been abandoned and are now developing past their usual rotation length. Do we have to expect changes in stand structure and composition of abandoned Castanea sativa coppice invaded by other species? Is a tree ring-based approach adequate to early recognise changes in inter-specific competitive interaction?
Location: Lowest alpine forest belt of the southern Swiss Alps.
Methods: We selected a 60-year old abandoned Castanea sativa coppice stand with sporadic Fagus sylvatica and Quercus cerris mixed in. Using tree-ring based indices we analysed differences in the species-specific response to competition. Analyses were performed by comparing how subject dominant trees (10 Castanea, 5 Fagus, 5 Quercus) have differently faced competition from their immediate Castanea coppice neighbourhood, taking into account the changes over time and space.
Results: Although no species appears yet to have made a difference in the surrounding coppice mortality, there are species-specific differences in growth dominance, which indicate potential successional processes. Castanea sativa growth dominated in the early stages of stand development. However, after approximately 30–35 yr Fagus sylvatica and Quercus cerris became much more dominant, indicating a change in competitive potential that does not favour Castanea sativa.
Conclusions: Without interventions this coppice will develop into a mixed stand. A tree-ring based approach allows an early recognition of forthcoming changes in stand composition and structure and is likely to be an important tool for forest landscape management.
Nomenclature: Aeschimann et al. (2004).
Abbreviations: BAI = Basal area increment; TD = Tree density.