Development of tree hollows in pedunculate oak (Quercus robur)
Organism biology | Forestry
Many invertebrates, birds and mammals are dependent on hollow trees. For landscape planning that aims at persistence of species inhabiting hollow trees it is crucial to understand the development of such trees. In this study we constructed an individual-based simulation model to predict diameter distribution and formation of hollows in oak tree populations. Based on tree-ring data from individual trees, we estimated the ages when hollow formation commences for pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) in southeast Sweden. At ages of about 200–300 years, 50 % of the trees had hollows. Among trees < 100 years old, less than 1 % had hollows, while all > 400-year-old trees had hollows. Hollows formed at earlier ages in fast-growing trees than in slow-growing trees, which may be because hollows are formed when big branches shed, and branches are thicker on fast-growing trees in comparison to slow-growing trees of the same age. The simulation model was evaluated by predicting the frequency of presence of hollows in relation to tree size in seven oak stands in the study area. The evaluation suggested that future studies should focus on tree mortality at different conditions. Tree ring methods on individual trees are useful in studies on development of hollow trees as they allow analysis of the variability in time for hollow formation among trees.