Aims: Silvicultural management plays a major role in shaping understory diversity through its action on stand structure. In many parts of Europe, recent socioeconomic changes have led to the progressive abandonment of coppicing in favor of high forest (HF) management. In order to examine how this change impacts understory species, we compared old coppice-with-standards and HF stands in terms of structural features and understory richness and composition, also taking into account the diagnostic species pool of the habitat. Since the management systems for coppices and HFs differ in cutting regime, we expect that they would cause different changes in floristic composition and richness. Methods: The study area was the Montagne della Duchessa massif, in central Italy. Structural differences and floristic richness were compared, and the diagnostic species diversity was analyzed using rarefaction curves and Rényi diversity profiles. Differences in understory composition were analyzed through indicator species analysis. Important Findings: Our results showed that, though the old coppices have a slightly higher number of understory species in general, the HF stands have greater mean species richness in both understory and diagnostic species, the latter being more evenly distributed inside the community. These finding were related to the cut regime, which favor a constant canopy cover over time and thus the maintenance of more stable microclimatic conditions, promoting the higher abundance and evenness of shade-tolerant and vernal species. Conversely, the dense canopy of the old coppice appears to affect the understory richness by reducing the presence of light-demanding species, but still without a complete recolonization of the shade-tolerant species. Overall, our findings provide the first insights supporting that, in a Mediterranean montane context, old coppice conversion to HF could over time improve the species diversity in these habitats and help maintain good conservation status of the typical mature beech forests.
Scolastri, A., Cancellieri, L., Iocchi, M., Cutini, M. (2017). Old coppice versus high forest: The impact of beech forest management on plant species diversity in central Apennines (Italy). JOURNAL OF PLANT ECOLOGY, 10(2), 271-280 [10.1093/jpe/rtw034].