The southernmost beech (Fagus sylvatica) forests of Europe (Mount Etna, Italy): ecology, structural stand-type diversity and management implications

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Abstract

The southernmost European beech forests are located in the upper forest vegetation belt on Mount Etna volcano. Their standstructuralpatterns were analysed to assess the effects of the site-ecological factors and previous management practices on theforest structure. Five main structural-silvicultural types were identified among the main beech forest types: coppice, highmountaincoppice (HMCo), high forest, coppice in conversion to high-forest and non-formal stand. A detailed standstructuralanalysis was carried out through measured dendrometric parameters and derived structural characters linked toboth the horizontal and the vertical profiles. Plant regeneration processes were also assessed, and several biodiversityindicators were calculated. The collected data indicate a high variability of beech stand structures in relation to theheterogeneity of the site-ecological characteristics as well as to the effects of both natural and anthropic disturbance factors.The occurrence of particular stand structures along the altitude gradient on Mount Etna is evident. It is especially visible inthe multi-stemmed HMCos in relation to the changing, and increasingly limiting, ecological factors, although at higheraltitudes historical anthropic actions (felling) also have had an influence. Inside the Mediterranean area, these stands highlighttheir ecological marginality, in terms of both latitude and altitude, especially regarding current climate change processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-99
Number of pages12
JournalPLANT BIOSYSTEMS
Volume149
Publication statusPublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science

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