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A chronosequence study of soil nutrient status under oak and Corsican pine with Ellenberg assessed ground vegetation changes

The objectives of this study were (a) to compare the Ellenberg values derived from the ground flora under both broadleaf and conifer stands in the same forest area, against measured soil and forest environmental factors and (b) to investigate the suggestion from the ground flora analysis that significant changes occur in soil character with forest stand age. The authors used a chronosequence approach, piecing together different datasets to construct a picture of change in condition under two types of trees, oaks and Corsican pines. Ellenberg indices based on data from ECN vegetation plots at Alice Holt forest were used, and compared with a range of soil parameters.
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© Oxford Journals (Oxford University Press)

A chronosequence study of soil nutrient status under oak and Corsican pine with Ellenberg assessed ground vegetation changes (2013). Pitman, R.; Benham, S. and Poole, J. Forestry. doi: 10.1093/forestry/cpt051

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Ellenberg indices (light, nitrogen, reaction and water) were derived from the Environmental Change Network ground flora survey under pedunculate oak (Quercus robur (L.) <200 years) and Corsican pine (Pinus nigra var maritima ((Ait.) Melville) <60 years) at Alice Holt Forest and compared with soil factors analysed for moisture, pH and nutrients, NH4-N, NO3-N and water-soluble nitrogen (N) (Tsol N). Results from replicate plots were grouped by stand age. Soil pH rose with age except under the oldest oak. July NH4-N levels under old oak on all clay soils were double those under old pine on sandier surface deposits, but NO3-N levels were halved under the oak. Floristic indices showed an N increase with age under both species, as soil N stock also significantly rose (oak: P < 0.01, pine, P < 0.05). Ellenberg N values were significantly correlated with Tsol N under oak (P < 0.01), and loss on ignition per cent under pine (P < 0.001). There was direct relation between Ellenberg R and soil pH across both communities (P < 0.05), but Ellenberg R and N values were highly inter-correlated (P < 0.001). The combined values (Ellenberg R and N) were significantly correlated with levels of mid-summer Tsol N (P < 0.01), indicating water-soluble organic N to be a good measure of N availability to ground flora plants. Ellenberg L values rose under pine with age but decreased under oak. Measured leaf area index of oak understorey shrubs increased from 10 to 20 per cent of the total with age, contributing to the loss of floristic diversity beyond middle age.