Structural indices are often proposed as guiding measures for increasing structural heterogeneity. However, few studies have examined the association between such indices and conventional stand attributes. The primary objectives of this study were to evaluate changes in structural heterogeneity and tree species diversity at different plot sizes and to quantify the relationships between conventional stand attributes (mean tree diameter, absolute tree density, basal area, species proportion) and structural indices in a mixed old-growth forest in Southeast Europe. Paired tests were used to identify significant changes in structural heterogeneity with increased plot area, while the relationships between stand attributes and analyzed indices (Gini, diameter differentiation, species mingling, and Shannon’s index) were evaluated with Pearson’s correlations. The index values of Gini, diameter differentiation, and tree species mingling were rather stable with the increase of plot size, whereas tree species diversity increased significantly with the increase of plot area from 200 m2
to 1500 m2
. The measures of tree species mingling and tree species diversity were strongly associated with each other, while their association with diameter variability was weak to moderately strong. Tree species mingling index was strongly associated with the changes in tree species proportions. However, conventional stand attributes were generally not strongly correlated with the examined indices. For restoring and maintaining old-growth characteristics, forest managers may use structural indices to increase small-scale structural heterogeneity, tree species mingling, and diversity, but only as an additional set of measures, not as surrogates for conventional stand attributes.
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