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Forests 2016, 7(3), 67; doi:10.3390/f7030067

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Effects of Understory Removal on Nitrogen and Mobile Carbohydrates in Overstory Trees

1
Key Laboratory of Mountain Ecological Restoration and Bioresource Utilization and Ecological Restoration Biodiversity Conservation Key Laboratory of Sichuan Province, Chengdu Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu 610041, China
2
Ecophysiology Group, Forest Dynamics, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, CH-8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland
3
Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenyang, Liaoning 110164, China
4
Institute of Forest Ecology, Sichuan Academy of Forestry, Chengdu 610081, China
5
Institute of Mountain Hazard and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu 610041, China
6
Institute of Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, Southwest University for Nationalities, Chengdu 610041, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Reynaldo Santana and Timothy A. Martin
Received: 13 January 2016 / Revised: 26 February 2016 / Accepted: 9 March 2016 / Published: 14 March 2016
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Abstract

Understory management in forest ecosystems has been applied to improve the wood production for hundreds of years worldwide. The carbon-physiological mechanisms underlying these positive effects of understory management on the growth of overstory trees have received less attention. We studied the non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) and total nitrogen (N) concentrations in tissues (needles, stem sapwood, and fine roots) of three tree species (two evergreen and one deciduous species) grown in the presence or absence (understory cut) of understory shrubs in plantations in southwestern China, to test whether understories affect the carbon and nitrogen status in the overstory trees. The concentrations of N, NSC (= soluble sugars + starch) in overstory trees varied significantly with understory treatments during the dry season rather than the wet season. Trees grown without understory shrubs had higher levels of N and NSC compared to trees grown with understories. The present study provides insight to explain the functional mechanisms for understory effects on growth of overstory trees, and indicates that the nitrogen and carbon status in overstory trees may be more strongly negatively affected by understory in stressful conditions rather than in optimal growth conditions. Moreover, the present study provides ecophysiology-based knowledge for dealing with understory vegetation management in forest ecosystems. View Full-Text
Keywords: carbon; competition; mobile carbohydrates; nitrogen; plant-plant interactions; soluble sugars; starch; tree-shrub interactions; understory-overstory interactions. carbon; competition; mobile carbohydrates; nitrogen; plant-plant interactions; soluble sugars; starch; tree-shrub interactions; understory-overstory interactions.
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Du, Z.; Cai, X.; Bao, W.; Chen, H.; Pan, H.; Wang, X.; Zhao, Q.; Zhu, W.; Liu, X.; Jiang, Y.; Li, M.-H. Short-Term vs. Long-Term Effects of Understory Removal on Nitrogen and Mobile Carbohydrates in Overstory Trees. Forests 2016, 7, 67.

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