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Open AccessArticle

Soil pH and Organic Matter Content Affects European Ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.) Crown Defoliation and Its Impact on Understory Vegetation

1
Department of Forest Sites and Ecology, Poznań University of Life Sciences, Wojska Polskiego 71f, 60-625 Poznań, Poland
2
Institute of Dendrology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Parkowa 5, 62-035 Kórnik, Poland
3
Department of Forest Botany, Poznań University of Life Sciences, Wojska Polskiego 71d, 60-625 Poznań, Poland
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2020, 11(1), 22; https://doi.org/10.3390/f11010022
Received: 25 November 2019 / Revised: 16 December 2019 / Accepted: 19 December 2019 / Published: 22 December 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Forest Ecology and Management)
European ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.) dieback caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus (T. Kowalski) Baral, Queloz, and Hosoya has been affecting European forests since 1992. The disease drives severe crown defoliation, branch loss, and finally tree mortality in European ash. The environmental factors affecting the disease process are still not fully recognized. We hypothesized that the level of crown defoliation in ash, as well as its impact on understory vegetation, will differ along the pH gradient in soil. We examined 27 ash stands in western Poland. We assessed the crown defoliation of 15 dominant and co-dominant trees, soil parameters (pH and soil organic matter contents; SOM), and also recorded the understory vegetation species composition. Most moderately and severely damaged trees occurred within the plots with a high SOM content (>7.5%) and neutral to slightly alkaline soil pH (>7.0) in the A horizon. We noted significantly lower crown defoliation in mesic sites with acidic soils and lower SOM contents. The results also showed the influence of ash crown defoliation on the species functional composition. Ash dieback led to the creation of gaps, and their colonization by other species frequently found in forest sites, especially forest-edge tall herbs. View Full-Text
Keywords: ash dieback; functional diversity; Hymenoscyphus fraxineus; soil organic matter; broadleaved forest; tree mortality ash dieback; functional diversity; Hymenoscyphus fraxineus; soil organic matter; broadleaved forest; tree mortality
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Turczański, K.; Rutkowski, P.; Dyderski, M.K.; Wrońska-Pilarek, D.; Nowiński, M. Soil pH and Organic Matter Content Affects European Ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.) Crown Defoliation and Its Impact on Understory Vegetation. Forests 2020, 11, 22.

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