Dead wood and stand structure - relationships for forest plots across Europe
Dead wood and stand structural parameters were sampled in eleven countries using standardized methods at about 90 intensive forest monitoring sites across large parts of Europe. Besides descriptions and correlation analyses of dead wood and stand structure parameters, a joint evaluation of both fields was performed by principal component analysis (PCA). The extracted principal components were subsequently regressed against important numerical and categorical site-related parameters like soil pH, altitude, or forest type. Dead wood volumes varied largely across plots, however, 77 percent of them had volumes below 25 cubic meter per hectare. While all fractions of dead wood - except cut stumps - reveal high intercorrelation, different aspects of stand structure varied more independently. Clark-Evans index, number of tree species and standard deviation of tree trunk diameters revealed as most self-contained. The 1st PCA axis covered 46 percent of the total variance and was mostly loaded by total dead wood volume denoting it as the feature differentiating forests most. The 2nd axis was primarily loaded by tree species diversity together with stem density and the Clark-Evans index. On the 3rd axis diameter differentiation of trees together with the volume of cut stumps prevailed, while the 4th was mainly related to the decay class of woody debris. Bivariate ex post analyses revealed country as a significant predictor of all PCA axes, underlining national forest legislations and management rules as crucial for all investigated structural features of forests. Forest type was related only to the 3rd and 2nd axis. Only the 3rd axis revealed significant relationships with some ecological site factors (age, number of tree layers, latitude, altitude). The outcome underlines the significance of nationally enacted forest legislations for both important structural and biodiversity-relevant features of forest ecosystems and encourages similar approaches with data from national forest inventories or monitoring systems.