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Ann Bot. 2004 Sep;94(3):333-43. Epub 2004 Jul 15.

Tree growth and competition in a Betula platyphylla-Larix cajanderi post-fire forest in central Kamchatka.

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Department of Botany, Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of South Bohemia, Na Zlate stoce 1, CZ-370 05 Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic.



Fire is the dominant disturbance in central Kamchatka boreal forests, yet patterns and mechanisms of stand recovery have not been investigated.


Measurements were made of 1433 stems > or =1.3 m height and annual radial increments of 225 randomly selected trees in a 0.4-ha plot of a 53-year-old fire-origin mixed-species stand to examine the spatio-temporal variation in establishment, growth, size inequality and the mode of competition among individual trees. Growth variations were related to tree size, age and local interference with neighbours.


Betula platyphylla formed the main canopy following a fire in 1947, with Larix cajanderi and Pinus pumila progressively reinvading the lower tree and shrub stratum. Most B. platyphylla originated from sprouts in small patches (polycormons) during the first 15 post-fire years. Betula platyphylla had normal distributions of diameter and age classes, but negatively skewed height distribution, as expected from shade-intolerant, pioneer species. Larix cajanderi had fewer tall and many short individuals. The smaller and younger B. platyphylla grew disproportionately more in diameter than larger trees from 1950 to 1975, and hence stem size inequalities decreased. The reverse trend was observed from 1995 to 2000: larger trees grew more, indicating an increasing asymmetry of competition for light. Betula platyphylla had steady diameter growth in the first 25 post-fire years, after which the growth declined in smaller trees. Neighbourhood analysis showed that the decline resulted from increased competition from taller neighbours.


The observed growth patterns suggest that mode of interactions altered during stand development from early stages of weak competition for soil resources released by fire to later stages of asymmetric competition for light. Asymmetric crown competition started later than reported in other studies, which can be attributed to the lower stem density leaving much space for individual growth, greater relative importance of below-ground competition in this site of nutrient-poor volcanic soil, and the vegetative origin of B. platyphylla. Larix cajanderi growing under B. platyphylla had steady diameter growth during the first 20 years, after which growth declined. It is suggested that early succession fits the tolerance model of succession, while inhibition dominates in later stages.

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