Interactive effects of past land use and recent forest management on the understorey community in temperate oak forests in South Sweden

Leen Depauw, Michael P. Perring, Jörg Brunet, Sybryn L. Maes, Haben Blondeel, Emiel De Lombaerde, Robbe De Groote, Kris Verheyen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
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Questions: Past agricultural land use and forest management have shaped and influenced the understorey composition in European forests for centuries. We investigated whether understorey vegetation assemblages are affected by (a) legacies from a historical infield/outland agricultural system (i.e., a system with nutrient-enriched vs nutrient-depleted areas), (b) recent management intensity (i.e., thinning/felling activities), and (c) the interaction of recent management and potential legacies. Location: Oak forests in Skåne, south Sweden. Methods: We use three vegetation surveys (1983, 1993/94 and 2014) and notes on management and land-use history, available for 62 permanent 500 m² plots. We conducted linear mixed effect modelling to detect both main and interactive effects of past land use and recent management on understorey diversity measures and vegetation indicator values for light and fertility. We combined nonmetric multidimensional scaling with permutational multivariate analysis of variance and indicator species analysis to detect compositional differences caused by past land use and/or recent management. Results: Understorey diversity was mainly affected by management activities, but the former infield/outland agricultural system was an important determinant of understorey composition. Understorey composition of former infields reflected higher nutrient availability and lower light availability compared to former outland. Past land use and recent management had interactive effects on light-related understorey variables: for the less intensively managed plots, the outland plots contained more light-demanding species than the infield plots, while for the more intensively managed plots, the light-demanding signature of the understorey was similar for infield and outland plots. Conclusions: Different intensities of past land use as well as recent forest management influenced the composition of the forest understorey, and interactions were present. Therefore, careful consideration of both the long-term land-use history and the more recent disturbances due to forest management are necessary when making future predictions of understorey composition and diversity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)917-928
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Vegetation Science
Issue number5
Early online date22 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


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