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Soil drainage class, host tree species, and thinning influence host tree resistance to the spruce budworm

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Thinning has frequently been recommended for reducing damage caused by spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana (Clemens)). It is believed that this technique enhances the mechanisms of resistance of trees (antibiosis and tolerance) to this insect. However, various research projects that have focused upon effects of this silvicultural tool on host tree resistance have yielded equivocal results. A better understanding of the effects of this technique on host tree resistance and budworm performance can help us to reduce the impact of this insect while respecting the ecological integrity of the forests. We examined the effects of stand commercial thinning and drainage class on balsam fir (Abies balsamea (L.) Mill.)), white spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss), and black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) Britton, Sterns & Poggenb.) resistance to spruce budworm 3 years after thinning. We wanted to determine if this technique could be used as preventive tool against insect defoliators. Field-rearing experiments of spruce budworm were conducted, together with foliar chemical analyses, along a gradient of stand thinning intensity (0% (control), 25% (light), and 40% (heavy)) and drainage class (rapidly drained, class 2; mesic with seepage, class 3; subhygric, class 4; and hydric, class 5). Despite having favoured budworm performance (high pupal mass) and winter survival, heavy thinning increased balsam fir and white spruce tolerance (amount of current-year foliage remaining) to a level that resulted in overall increased host tree resistance to the insect. This response was caused by strong foliage production in reaction to the thinning treatment. Light thinning did not increase host tolerance, except in balsam fir and white spruce that were growing on hydric and subhygric sites, respectively, demonstrating the importance of this variable in determining host tree resistance. These results suggest that heavy thinning may be used as a preventive measure during the low-density phase of budworm populations, since this technique increased foliar production in balsam fir and white spruce, rendering them more resistant to attack by this insect.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: October 14, 2012

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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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