Ecological indicators of forest degradation after forest fire and clear-cutting in the Siberian larch (Larix sibirica) stand of Mongolia
This study was conducted to investigate ecological indicators of forest degradation after forest fire and clear-cutting in the Siberian larch (Larix sibirica Ledeb.) stand of Mongolia. The species abundance and biodiversity indices were higher in burned and clear-cut stands than those of reference stand, but boreal understory species, such as Vaccinium vitis-idaea, Pyrola incarnata, Linnea borealis and Maianthemum bifolium, completely disappeared and was replaced by sedge species, such as Carex duriuscula, C. lanceolata, C. pediformis, Poa attenuata and P. pratensis. During the research period, temperature increased by an average of 1.6°C in burned stand and 1.7°C in clear-cut stand compared to reference stand, but RH sharply decreased up to 15.7% in clear-cut stand. This result indicates that Larix sibirica stand became warmer and drier after forest fire and clear-cutting, and contributed to the abundance of sedge and grass species in the understory. Moreover, intense occupation of tall sedge grass after forest fire and clear-cutting had a vital role as obstacle on natural regeneration of Larix sibirica. The similarity of species composition between reference and burned stands was higher (73.6%) than between reference and clear-cut stands (63.8%). Soil moisture significantly decreased after forest fire and clear-cutting, and the extent of decrease was more severe in the clear-cut stand. The chemical properties at soil organic layer were significantly affected by forest fire and clear-cutting but not the mineral horizons. Inorganic nitrogen of the forest floor significantly decreased in the clear-cut stand (1.1±0.4 mg·kg-1) than that of the burned (4.5±2.3 mg·kg-1) and reference stands (5.0±2.3 mg·kg-1). Available P of the forest floor significantly increased after fire, whereas it decreased after clear-cutting. These results indicate that existence of boreal understory vegetation, and changes in soil moisture and available P are distinct attributes applicable as ecological indicators for identifying forest degradation in Mongolia.