iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Ecological factors affecting the recent Picea abies decline in Slovenia: the importance of bedrock type and forest naturalness

Janez Kermavnar (1)   , Lado Kutnar (1), Anže Martin Pintar (2)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 16, Issue 2, Pages 105-115 (2023)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor4168-016
Published: Mar 29, 2023 - Copyright © 2023 SISEF

Research Articles

Norway spruce (Picea abies [L.] Karst.) has been at the centre of controversy for many decades. Recent evidence of its profound disturbance-induced damage and consequent stock depletions across forest landscapes in Europe has reinforced doubts regarding the sustainability and prospects of this tree species in the future. Like many other European countries, Slovenia has experienced significant Norway spruce mortality and a decrease in growing stock primarily as the result of several disturbance agents (bark beetle outbreaks, an ice storm, windthrows). We investigated a countrywide spruce growing stock decline based on data between 2010 and 2018. Particular focus was placed on identifying the main ecological drivers of this decline, namely geological conditions, climatic parameters, soil attributes, topographic factors and forest stand characteristics. The effects of potential predictors on the relative change (%) in spruce volume (m3 ha-1) during the period 2010-2018 were analysed with Generalized Additive Models. Based on a national dataset including forest compartments (n = 6355) with a spruce growing stock decline > 10%, we found mixed support for ecology-based hypotheses. While spruce decline responded to bedrock type as predicted (i.e., greater relative decline in carbonate compared to silicate compartments), higher forest naturalness (preservation of tree species composition) was not associated with a lower decline. Spruce decline was amplified by higher potential evapotranspiration and soil clay content but showed a strong negative relationship with spruce proportion in the year 2010. General trends along the gradients of other selected predictors (stoniness/rockiness and heat load index) were less pronounced. The results suggest that most of these ecological predictors interact with geology and forest naturalness in affecting Norway spruce decline. Our analysis reveals that bedrock type can play an important role due to its mitigating effects. However, forest naturalness is of secondary significance as intensified large-scale forest disturbances likely override its buffering potential.


Norway Spruce, Bark Beetle Outbreaks, Ice Storm, Soil-geology Relationship, Tree Species Composition, Slovenia

Authors’ address

Janez Kermavnar 0000-0001-8052-4653
Lado Kutnar 0000-0001-9785-1263
Slovenian Forestry Institute, Department of Forest Ecology, Večna pot 2, 1000 Ljubljana (Slovenia)
Anže Martin Pintar
Slovenian Forestry Institute, Department for Forest and Landscape Planning and Monitoring, Večna pot 2, 1000 Ljubljana (Slovenia)

Corresponding author

Janez Kermavnar


Kermavnar J, Kutnar L, Pintar AM (2023). Ecological factors affecting the recent Picea abies decline in Slovenia: the importance of bedrock type and forest naturalness. iForest 16: 105-115. - doi: 10.3832/ifor4168-016

Academic Editor

Alessandro Vitali

Paper history

Received: Jun 24, 2022
Accepted: Jan 19, 2023

First online: Mar 29, 2023
Publication Date: Apr 30, 2023
Publication Time: 2.30 months

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