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Age and size effects on seed productivity of northern black spruce

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Slow-growing conifers of the northern boreal forest may require several decades to reach reproductive maturity, making them vulnerable to increases in disturbance frequency. Here, we examine the relationship between stand age and seed productivity of black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) Britton, Sterns & Poggenb.) in Yukon Territory and Alaska. Black spruce trees were aged and surveyed for cone production and seed viability across 30 even-aged stands ranging from 12 to 197 years old. Logistic regression indicated that individual trees had a ∼50% probability of producing cones by age 30 years, which increased to 90% by age 100 years. Cone and seed production increased steadily with age or basal area at both the tree and stand level, with no evidence of declining seed production in trees older than 150 years. Using published seed:seedling ratios, we estimated that postfire recruitment will be limited by seed availability in stands for up to 50 years (on high-quality seedbeds) to 150 years (low-quality seedbeds) after fire. By quantifying these age and seed productivity relationships, we can improve our ability to predict the sensitivity of conifer seed production to a range of disturbance frequencies and thus anticipate changes in boreal forest resilience to altered fire regime.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2013

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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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