Photographic assessment of overstory and understory leaf area index in beech forests under different management regimes in Central Italy

Francesco Chianucci 1 , Nicola Puletti 2 , Ernesto Venturi 2 , Andrea Cutini 2 ,  and Ugo Chiavetta 2
  • 1 Consiglio per la Ricerca in Agricoltura e l’Analisi dell’Economia Agraria – Forestry Research Centre, Viale Santa Margherita 80, 52100 Arezzo, Italy
  • 2 Consiglio per la Ricerca in Agricoltura e l’Analisi dell’Economia Agraria - Forestry Research Centre, Viale Santa Margherita 80, 52100 Arezzo, Italy


Forest understory may be strongly affected by silvicultural practices such as thinning, which simultaneously modulates the overstory canopy cover and influences the availability of light. However, the understory layer is rarely considered in management decisions, partly because methods to estimate understory leaf area index are poorly developed. In this study we used two different restricted view angle photographic methods to estimate overstory plant area index LO (zenith cover photography), understory leaf area index LU (nadir cover photography) and their related canopy attributes (foliage clumping, foliage cover, crown cover, crown porosity). These measurements were performed in beech stands under different management regime. Results from photography indicated that not only overstory but also understory canopy attributes were significantly influenced by forest management. In addition, a significant negative correlation was found between LO and LU. We conclude that the photographic methods are effective for monitoring (overstory and understory) canopy status in managed stands, on account of their rapid and not destructive procedures, which allows large scale implementation of the methods.

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