Giupponi L., Leoni V., Pedrali D., Giorgi A.
Windstorms are rare in the Southern Alps, but their frequency is increasing due to climate change. This research analyzed the vegetation of two spruce forests in Camonica Valley (Northern Italy) destroyed by the Vaia storm to evaluate the vegetation responses to blowdown damage. In each study area, the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) was used to evaluate the change in plant cover and greenness from 2018 (before the Vaia storm) to 2021. Furthermore, floristic-vegetation data were analyzed to identify current plant communities and develop models of plant succession. The results showed that the two areas, although located in different altitudinal vegetation belts, are undergoing the same ecological processes. NDVI is increasing in both areas, and pre-disturbance values (~0.8) should be reached in less than ten years. Nevertheless, the spontaneous restoration of pre-disturbance forest communities (Calamagrostio arundinaceae-Piceetum) should not occur in both study areas. In fact, the two plant succession trends are characterized by pioneer and intermediate stages with young trees of Quercus petraea and Abies alba, typical of more thermophilic mature forest communities compared to pre-disturbance ones. These results could reinforce the trend of the upward shift in forest plant species and plant communities in response to environmental changes in mountain areas.