Initial survival and development of planted European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) and small-leaved lime (Tilia cordata Mill.) seedlings competing with black cherry (Prunus serotina Ehrh.).
Black cherry (Prunus serotina Ehrh.) is considered one of the most invasive tree species in central Europe and causes problems for both nature conservation and silviculture. Besides mechanical control treatments, a suggested control method to prevent its ongoing spread is to underplant shade-tolerant native tree species. Therefore, we combined two mechanical treatments, with underplanting of European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) or small-leaved lime (Tilia cordata Mill.) on fenced and unfenced plots. After the first growing season, survival rates were evaluated, and selected seedlings were destructively harvested to analyze their growth performance and leaf morphology in association with the different light regimes resulting from mechanical treatments Survival rates for both seedlings were very high (>95%). Survival rates were higher on fenced plots than on unfenced plots, most likely as result of browsing. The mortality of F. sylvatica decreased with increasing light availability on fenced plots. The mortality of T. cordata did not change along the light gradient. After one vegetation period no differences with respect to biomass allocation could be detected along the light gradient. However, the specific leaf areas of both species responded similarly, decreasing with increasing light availability. In summary, both species were able to establish and survive in the dense P. serotina understory and might have the potential to outcompete the invasive alien species in the long run.