We investigated the effects of disturbances on the dynamics of white birch-dominated forests at the southern boundary of the Mongolian forest-steppe. Dendroecological techniques were used to assess regeneration patterns and recent mortality trends in three stands with no evidence of recent anthropogenic disturbance (undisturbed) and four stands with evidence of cutting or fire (disturbed). In the undisturbed stands, only one distinct stem establishment was observed in the period between 1910 and 1950, and no establishment has been observed since then. In the disturbed stands, however, high establishment mainly by sprouting was observed in the period between 1960 and 1980. Percentages of standing dead stems were higher in the undisturbed stands than in the disturbed stands. Mean ages at death in the undisturbed stands were ≥70 years old. The high mortality was likely induced by the death of smaller stems due to light competition, whereas the mortality of larger stems was likely the result of tree senescence. In summary, the undisturbed stands seem to be in danger of decline due to a lack of regeneration during the last half of the previous century and recent high mortality rates of older stems, while the disturbed stands may be maintained for the next several decades by the younger cohort established between 1960 and 1980. White birch-dominated forests at the southern boundary of Mongolian forest-steppe have probably relied on relatively short disturbance intervals in the past because of the disturbance-dependent regeneration trait and relatively short longevity of Betula species.
- Seedling regeneration
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