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Thinning, Age, and Site Quality Influence Live Tree Carbon Stocks in Upland Hardwood Forests of the Southern Appalachians

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This study examines the effects of thinning, age, and site quality on aboveground live tree carbon (ATC) (Mg/ha) stocks in upland hardwood forests of mixed-species composition in the southern Appalachian Mountains. In 1974, 80 plots ranging in size from 0.06 to 0.1 ha were established in even-aged, mixed-hardwood forests throughout the southern Appalachians. All trees >2.54 cm dbh within each plot were tagged and measured. Sixty-two plots received a low thinning to a broad range of residual basal areas (BAs) (m2/ha) whereas 18 of the 80 plots remained unthinned and served as controls. Remeasurement of plots occurred every 5 years through 2005. Individual tree volumes were converted to stand-level estimates of ATC stocks for each inventory cycle. The average net annual rate of carbon (C) storage in aboveground live tree biomass was significantly greater in thinned versus unthinned stands. We found that light low thinnings had a neutral to slightly positive effect on net ATC stocks over the long-term relative to unthinned stands of similar age and initial BA. Relative differences, however, varied with age when ingrowth data were excluded from the analysis and with age and BA when ingrowth data were included in the analysis. In general, the gains in net ATC stocks in thinned verses unthinned stands were minor. The increased rate at which thinned stands stored C coupled with substantial mortality in unthinned stands was probably responsible for this “crossover” effect of thinning on ATC stocks.
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Keywords: Central Hardwood Region; aboveground carbon; forest thinning; mixed-oak forests

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-10-01

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  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2016 Impact Factor: 1.782 (Rank 17/64 in forestry)

    Average time from submission to first decision: 62.5 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
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