Ice Damage in Loblolly Pine: Understanding the Factors That Influence Susceptibility
Winter ice storms frequently occur in the southeastern United States and can severely damage softwood plantations. In January 2004, a severe storm deposited approximately 2 cm of ice on an intensively managed 4-year-old loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) plantation in South Carolina. Existing irrigation and fertilization treatments presented an opportunity to examine the effects of resource amendments on initial ice damage and subsequent recovery. Fertilized treatments showed more individual stem breakage, whereas nonfertilized treatments showed more stem bending; however, the proportion of undamaged trees did not differ between treatments. Irrigation did not influence the type of damage. Trees that experienced breakage during the storm were taller with larger diameter and taper and leaf, branch, and crown biomass compared with unbroken trees. One growing season after ice damage, relative height increases were significantly greater for trees experiencing stem breakage compared with unbroken trees; however, relative diameter increases were significantly lower for these trees. Relative diameter increases for broken trees were smaller for fertilized treatments compared with nonfertilized treatments. A reduction in wood strength was ruled out as the cause of greater breakage in fertilized trees; rather, fertilized trees had reached an intermediate diameter range known to be susceptible to breakage under ice loading.