iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Structure and dynamics of a beech forest in a fully protected area in the northern Apennines (Sasso Fratino, Italy)

L Bianchi (1)   , A Bottacci (2), G Calamini (1), A Maltoni (1), B Mariotti (1), G Quilghini (3), F Salbitano (1), A Tani (1), A Zoccola (2), M Paci (1)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 4, Issue 3, Pages 136-144 (2011)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor0564-004
Published: Jun 01, 2011 - Copyright © 2011 SISEF

Research Articles

Sasso Fratino Nature Reserve (National Park of Casentino Forests, northern Apennines) is a quite rare example of natural Apennine forest. The Reserve was established in 1959, aiming to protect a forest, although not a virgin one, low-intensively disturbed in the past by comparison with other neighbouring stands. Causes of such a low disturbance are the very limited accessibility of the area due to the very steep slopes characterising the site morphology, as well as historical features. The forest is a pure beech stand from 1250 m a.s.l. upwards, below this altitude is a mixed beech and silver fir forest. The study focuses on the understanding of the processes driving the evolution of the forest in the absence of human activities. To achieve this goal, 9 permanent, long-term research plots were established at different altitudes, in order to investigate on forest dynamics and regeneration processes. Simplified (single-layer) stand structures are more frequent where canopy gaps are absent. Two-layered structures are the result of the occurrence of canopy gaps, which allow the settlement, and subsequently the establishment, of a lower regeneration layer. Where the gap dimensions allow canopy closure, this kind of structure persists. When the gaps are quite large, the regeneration layer reaches the top layer and the structure stand tends, once more, toward a single-layer. Multilayered structures are extremely rare at plot level and become evident only at a wider scale. Our surveys indicate also a high variability of tree diameter distribution patterns in the forest stands. Such variability could be strictly related to the heterogeneity of site characteristics as well as to the effects of disturbance factors (both natural and anthropic). Concerning altitude, we observed an increase both of site index (dominant height) and species diversity in the regeneration layer, moving from higher (1500 m) to lower (900 m) altitudes. As a whole, our observations show that the dynamics of forest vegetation in the reserve is mostly affected by the interruption of tree canopy continuity. This implies substantial local variations of PAR in space and in time, which determine favourable ecological conditions for: (a) survival and growth of beech seedlings, or release of advanced beech regeneration; and (b) release of advanced silver fir regeneration (fir, more shade tolerant than beech, regenerates mainly in locations and conditions where the broadleaf saplings cannot survive for lack of light). The knowledge of the mechanisms of vegetation dynamics in the Reserve can be used to form the basis of close-to-nature silvicultural choices in similar stands in order to increase functionality and stability. Periodical monitoring of RNI will allow the investigation of the evolutionary trends of the forest stands.


Old growth forest, Forest stand dynamics, Beech - Silver fir mixed stand, Forest management

Authors’ address

L Bianchi
G Calamini
A Maltoni
B Mariotti
F Salbitano
A Tani
M Paci
DEISTAF, University of Florence, FI (Italy)
A Bottacci
A Zoccola
CFS, UTB Pratovecchio, AR (Italy)
G Quilghini
CFS, UTB Follonica, GR (Italy)

Corresponding author



Bianchi L, Bottacci A, Calamini G, Maltoni A, Mariotti B, Quilghini G, Salbitano F, Tani A, Zoccola A, Paci M (2011). Structure and dynamics of a beech forest in a fully protected area in the northern Apennines (Sasso Fratino, Italy). iForest 4: 136-144. - doi: 10.3832/ifor0564-004

Paper history

Received: Nov 15, 2010
Accepted: Mar 03, 2011

First online: Jun 01, 2011
Publication Date: Jun 01, 2011
Publication Time: 3.00 months

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