Patterns of clonal growth modes along a chronosequence of post-coppice forest regeneration in beech forests of Central Italy
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Forest coppicing leads to changes in composition of the herbaceous understory through soil disturbance and alteration of the light regime. While the role of seed dispersal traits at the start of succession after coppicing has been extensively studied, the role of persistence traits such as clonal growth and bud banks is not yet sufficiently understood. To gain better understanding of this role, we studied the patterns of clonal growth organs and related clonal traits of species in a series of coppiced beech forests of the Central Apennines (Marches region, Italy) in various stages of recovery after the last coppicing event. We conducted stratified random sampling and established a chronosequence of recovery stages based on stand age (reflecting the number of years since the last coppicing). The beech stands were classified into three age groups (Post-logged, Recovering, and Old-coppice stands) according to the characteristic stages of beech coppice dynamics. Clonal growth organs and the corresponding clonal traits of plants in the forest understory vegetation were assessed with the help of a CLO-PLA1 database. We found no significant change in the proportion of clonal species along the studied chronosequence. In contrast, most of the traits and about the half of the clonal growth organs showed correlation with stand age or preference for a certain habitat (i.e., stage of regeneration). Clonal and bud bank traits proved to play an important role in the persistence of species subjected to forest coppicing cycles in the studied area.
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