Gap phase regeneration recruitment of mixed conifer-broadleaf forests in Wolong Nature Reserve

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Wolong Nature Reserve is the largest reserve for protecting the endangered wild giant panda. Due to historical factors, even in many sections of the core protection area, the forests have been seriously destroyed and natural forests are poorly restored. However, the relative importance of the determinants for recruitment of communities under disturbance is rarely explored. In our study the endogenous and exterior factors in a forest gap that affect the conifer-broad-leaved mixed forest regeneration were investigated near Wuyipeng, one of the observation stations at Wolong, to explore which determinant had the greatest effect on gap regeneration and to discover the recruitment of seedling establishment in forest gaps. With a linear sampling method, environmental factors, gap characteristics and recruitment of new individuals were measured and examined in every forest gap along three sampling lines. Data of environmental factors in the gaps were collected for a Pearson correlation analysis in order to explore the disturbance and preprocessed characteristics of the gaps, using principal component analysis in SPSS. Correlation analysis was applied to further explore the relationship between changes in the gaps and the response of the regenerating seedlings. The results show that a range of natural and human disturbances affected the pattern and characteristics of the forest gaps in this area. The richness in the composition of the seedlings was higher than that of gap makers, but the order of dominance of the composition was different between seedlings and gap makers. The success of dominant species in establishing themselves was affected by different environmental factors. For instance, the establishment of Betula spp. was correlated significantly with topographic factors, while that of Abies faxoniana was affected by soil characteristics and that of Rhododendron spp. correlated significantly with topographic factors and characteristics of gap makers. Moreover, all the biodiversity indices of regenerating seedlings were significantly correlated with environmental principle components mostly reflecting soil properties. From this we can infer that soil characteristics are the most important factors affecting the regeneration of dominant species and seedling diversity under gap disturbances.

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