Current issue: 54(2)
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 vegetation and number of physical and chemical soil properties were studied on a random sample of closed upland forest stands in Southern Finland. The material consists of a total of 410 sample plots. Two-way indicator species analysis (TWINSPAN) was carried out in order to produce a hierarchical clustering of samples on the basis of the vegetation data. Discriminant analysis and analysis of variance were applied in order to find environmental correlations of the vegetation clustering.
The vegetation was found to indicate the nutrient regime of the humus layer well, but to a less extent the properties of the sub-soil. The understorey vegetation was found to be jointly dependent on the site fertility and on the properties of the tree stand, especially on the tree species composition. Although the forest vegetation appears to be distributed rather continuously along an axis of increasing site fertility, relatively unambiguous classification can be based on the appearance of indicator species and species groups.
The results of the study were interpreted as indication that operational site classification done using the vegetation is rather good method for classification in closed forest stands. Different methods produce relatively consistent, natural and ecologically interpretable classifications. The results also imply that the vegetation cover and the humus layer develop concurrently during the development of the ecosystem, but the differentiation of the site type is regulated simultaneously by a number of interacting factors ranging from mineralogical properties of the parent material to the topographical exposition of the site. As the plant cover depicts all these primary factors simultaneously, only a relatively rough ecological site classification can be based on the vegetation.
The PDF includes a summary in Finnish.