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Long-term effects of thinning on growth and yield of an upland black spruce stand

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Knowledge of the long-term effects of silviculture treatments is crucial to forest management. The long-term effects of thinning, a common and widely used silviculture treatment, is little documented for upland black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) Britton, Sterns & Poggenb.) stands. We revisited a partial cutting experiment installed in 1961 in a 65-year-old unmanaged upland black spruce stand. The aim was to document the long-term effects of thinning on tree and stand growth and to complete previously published results of the first 15 years of response to thinning by determining its influence in terms of merchantable volume. Free thinning was applied following three intensities: 0%, 25%, and 50% of total basal area removal. The retrospective analysis of growth rings showed that the response over the first 15 years was less significant when determined in net merchantable volume instead of net total volume. Heavily thinned plots, nonetheless, showed a net stand merchantable volume increment 33% greater than that of the unthinned plots. In the longer term, a spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana Clemens) outbreak affected the site; nevertheless, the heavily thinned plots maintained a superior tree growth rate and did not show senescence mortality like the other plots, allowing stand volume to catch up to that of the unthinned plots after 33 years. Results suggested that thinning upland black spruce stands may be useful in mitigating reductions in volume production associated with growing stands to longer rotations as called for by certain ecosystem-based management approaches.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Laurentian Forestry Centre, 1055 du P.E.P.S, P.O. Box 3800, Sainte-Foy, QC G1V 4C7, Canada. 2: Faculté de Foresterie, Université de Moncton, Campus d’Edmundston, 165 Boul. Hébert, Edmundston, NB E3V 2S8, Canada.

Publication date: September 17, 2012

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