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Detection of red heartwood in paper birch (Betula papyrifera) using external stem characteristics

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Red heartwood, a dark nonhomogenous discolouration in paper birch trees (Betula papyrifera Marsh.), limits the applications and uses of sawn boards to nonvisible low-value products, thus resulting in substantial value loss. The occurrence and distribution of red heartwood were investigated in 12 paper birch trees grown in the province of Quebec, Canada. The youngest tree was 62 years old at breast height and the oldest 86 years old for an average of 75 years old. In this study, 225 occurrences of external traits, relating to branch scars and forks, previously proposed as initiation points for red heartwood were identified and measured. The distribution of red heartwood was digitally mapped and the effect of these external traits on the red heartwood surface and shape inside each tree was examined. Results show that red heartwood initiates from an external trait and that multiple external traits can contribute to the development of a red heartwood column following the longitudinal axis of the stem. Red heartwood appeared to initiate mainly from external traits at the base of the tree. A modelling exercise indicated that the width of the red heartwood column inside a standing tree can be estimated from branch scar width and height from the ground. Tree vigour could not be linked to the proportion of red heartwood inside standing trees. A three-dimensional analysis of log shape could potentially be used to detect red heartwood presence in a log before processing to optimize the log sawing pattern.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2011-07-05

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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