Current issue: 53(3)
Under compilation: 53(4)
Physical soil properties have a marked influence on the quality of forest sites and on the preconditions for forest growth and management. In this study, water retention characteristics (WRC) and related physical soil properties in addition to vegetation coverage and tree stand data were studied at upland forest sites in Finland. Fixed and mixed models between soil and site characteristics were formed to estimate physical and hydrologic soil characteristics and the site quality with indirect co-varying variables. In the present data, the site quality index (H100) shows a high coefficient of determination in respect to the temperature sum. It is also related to soil fine fraction content, topsoil pH and water retention at field capacity. The thickness of the humus layer is predictable from the pH and cover of xeric and mesic plant species. The soil fine fraction content (clay + silt) is closely related to water retention at field capacity, the soil layer and site type, and without WRC to the temperature sum and site index and type, as well as the slope angle. The soil bulk density is related to organic matter, depth (layer) or alternatively to organic matter, slope and field estimated textural class (fine, medium, coarse). Water retention characteristics were found to be best determinable by the fine fraction content, depth and bulk density. Water content and air-filled porosity at field capacity are closely related to the fine fraction. This study provides novel models for further investigations that aim at improved prediction models for forest growth, hydrology and trafficability.
The boreal timber- and tree-line forests grow in harsh environmental conditions in their outermost distribution limit. Here even small environmental changes may cause dramatic changes in the distribution of tree species. We examined changes of the forest lines of Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) H. Karst.) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) in Finnish Lapland five times during 1983–2009. We monitored the number of stems and the volume of the growing stock in thirteen different locations in forest-line areas. The linear temporal trends and the variations of these response variables were used as indicators of a possible change during the study period. Spruce showed a significant increase both in the volume of the growing stock (up to 40% increase) and in the total stem number (up to 100% increase). A significant increase in the volume of the growing stock was observed in the pine data as well (up to 70% increase), whereas the stem number stagnated or even decreased. The results suggest that spruce needs favourable conditions to have an abundant regeneration, but after the establishment the seedlings seem to be more resistant against biotic and abiotic disturbances than pine seedlings. The increasing stand volume might result in a climate-related northward and upward extension of forests in the future. However, our results show that responses in the boreal forest line are species and location specific and a more favourable climate does not necessarily lead to an advance of the coniferous forest line.