Vol14 No.5: 811-822
【Title】Alternative stable states in mountain forest ecosystems: the case of European larch (Larix decidua) forests in the western Alps
【Author】Jose V. MORIS*; Giorgio VACCHIANO; Davide ASCOLI; Renzo MOTTA
【Addresses】University of Turin, DISAFA, Largo Paolo Braccini 2, 10095 Grugliasco (TO), Italy
【Citation】Moris JV, Vacchiano G, Ascoli D, Motta R (2017) Alternative stable states in mountain forest ecosystems: the case of European larch (Larix decidua) forests in the western Alps. Journal of Mountain Science 14(5). DOI: 10.1007/s11629-016-4328-1
【Abstract】European larch (Larix decidua) forests of the western Alps form extensivecultural landscapes whose resilience to global changes is currently unknown. Resilience describes the capacity of ecological systems to maintain the same state, i.e., the same function, processes, structure, and composition despite disturbances, environmental changes and internal fluctuations. Our aim is to explore the resilience of larch forests to changes in climate and land use in the western Italian Alps.To do so, we examined whether larch forests can be described as an alternative stable state in mountain forest ecosystems. We used tree basal area data obtained from field forest inventories in combination with topography, forest structure, land use, and climate information. We applied three different probabilistic methods: frequency distributions, logistic regressions, and potential analyses to infer the resilience of larch forests relative to that of other forest types.We found patters indicative of alternative stable states: bimodality in the frequency distribution of the percent of larch basal area, and the presence of an unstable state, i.e., mixed larch forests, in the potential analyses. We also found: (1) high frequency ofpurelarchforestsathighelevation,(2)the probability of pure larch forests increased mostly with elevation, and(3) pure larch forests were a stable state in the upper montane and subalpine belts.Our study shows that the resilience of larch forests may increase with elevation, most likely due to the altitudinal effect on climate. Under the same climate conditions, land use seems to be the main factor governing the dominance of larch forests. In fact, subalpine larch forests may be more resilient, and natural succession after land abandonment, e.g., towards Pinus cembra forests, seems slower than in montane larch forests. In contrast, in the upper montane belt only intense land use regimes characterized by open canopies and forest grazing may maintain larch forests.We conclude that similar approaches could be applied in other forest ecosystems to infer the resilience of tree species.
【Keywords】Resilience; Ecosystem bistability; Elevation; Land use; Natural succession; Pinus cembra; European larch