This study investigated, in a Pinus laricio forest of south Italy, how systematic thinning of different intensities (intense thinning, T45; moderate thinning, T25; clear cut, CC; and no thinning, T0) affected soil biological properties, organic matter trend and carbon (C) storage in soil and plants. Soil carbon content and carbon/nitrogen (C/N) ratio were significantly higher in the T45 than in control, T25 and CC. Under T45, the soils had also the highest enzymatic activities, microbial biomass carbon (MBC) and colonies of fungi and bacteria. The humification parameters (humification ratio, HR; the degree of humification, DH; humification index, HI) indicated T45 as the best silvicultural practice-approach method to manage Pinus laricio forest for increasing soil carbon storage. The dendrometric parameters evidenced that T45 caused the greatest increment in wood growth (diameter and height), showing that the positive effect of the intense systematic thinning (T45) on the mechanical stability of plantation was related to the ability of trees to accumulate large amounts of carbon in their wood tissues. These data were confirmed by wood density value that was the highest in pine trees under the T45. This study showed that in Pinus laricio forest under T45 C stock increased in soil and plant, already 4 years after thinning.
In Mediterranean regions, climate change increasingly affect tree species distributions. Conifer forests under continuing disturbance show a more rapid shift to dominance by beech and other temperate broadleaves. Thus, there is an urgent need to conserve coniferous vegetation to avoid local extinction. Gap opening has profound effects on the structure and dynamics of most forests and may represent a sustainable way to restore coniferous ecosystems in Mediterranean habitats. What kind of artificial canopy opening is the most sustainable and effective means for restoring coniferous ecosystem functions? We explored the efficacy of artificial gaps in regeneration and dynamics of coniferous in Mediterranean environment. We examined how regeneration of different tree species is associated with soil environmental conditions and how gaps of different sizes influence the ecology and management of Mediterranean forest. Specifically, we analyzed gap disturbance in silver fir and black pine stands, as they dominate central and southern Italian forests. We demonstrated a specificity between gap size and coniferous species regeneration, indicating that small gaps (about 200 m 2 ) favor silver fir regeneration, while black pine, depending on its subspecies, regenerates both in small and medium gaps (about 500 m 2 ). Further, we found that gap characteristics (age and shape) and suitable substrate availability are the primary factors affecting seedling establishment. Our results provide functional information to design a silvicultural system useful to manage the natural regeneration of Mediterranean forest minimizing the environmental and visual impact.
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