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The english beech masting survey 1980–2007: Variation in the fruiting of the common beech (fagus sylvatica l.) and its effects on woodland ecosystems

Packham, JR, Thomas, PA, Lageard, JGA and Hilton, GM (2008) The english beech masting survey 1980–2007: Variation in the fruiting of the common beech (fagus sylvatica l.) and its effects on woodland ecosystems. Arboricultural Journal, 31 (3). pp. 189-214. ISSN 0307-1375

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Abstract

Study of annual production of beech mast at twelve main sites including closed canopy beechwood, shelter belts, avenues and an isolated tree in a park, as well as intermittent observations at others, has now continued for twenty-eight years. During this period beech mast was sampled from up to 100 trees by seven-minute samples collected from the ground. Aerial samples have also been collected from low-growing branches. Production of full seed varies greatly from year to year, and all trees produce empty pericarps as well as full mast, especially on lower or shaded branches. The proportion of full nuts consumed or damaged by the moth Cydia fagiglandana Z., birds and small mammals, in English sites, can become significant especially in non-mast years. Good masting occurred in 1980, 1982, 1984, 1987, 1990, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006: after each of these good years, one year of very poor masting normally followed. The best year recorded so far was 1990. In both 1981 and 2005, no full mast was found, and singularly very little in 1991 and 2001. Regional variation within England is much less than the annual variation, but over the period the northern trees have produced on average fewer full nuts but rather more empty and total nuts. In 2007, however, northern trees produced markedly less full and total nuts than their southern counterparts. Over such a long period it was inevitable that site changes would occur. In some instances the substrate beneath particular trees is now less favourable for rapid nut collection. As some trees have died, additional younger trees are now being assessed. In 1996, far more viable seed was formed in certain Scottish sites than at those we observed in England, so it is highly desirable that Scottish and Welsh sites be monitored in the future. © 2008 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

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