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Impacts of Long-Term Diameter-Limit Harvesting on Residual Stands of Red Spruce in Maine

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Diameter-limit harvesting has long been suspected as a dysgenic forestry practice, but a conclusive, practical demonstration of the effects of this selection technique on residual tree performance is lacking. To determine the effects of repeated diameter-limit harvesting on the phenotypes of residual trees, we compared radial growth patterns of residual red spruce trees (with ages greater than 100 years) after diameter-limit harvests with those of residual trees in stands subjected to positive selection harvesting. After nearly 50 years of repeated harvesting, residual trees in the diameter-limit stands were nearly 40% smaller and had grown 32% slower than residual trees in positive selection stands. Furthermore, diameter-limit residuals were initially smaller and remained significantly smaller than positive selection residuals throughout their lifespan, despite major release events. After release, the diameter-limit trees responded with increased growth rates, but the increase was relatively small. Growth rates were consistently and significantly lower for diameter-limit residuals until the final 20 yr when growth rates in each treatment converged. Our results indicate that red spruce stands subjected to repeated diameter-limit harvesting will develop progressively less valuable growing stock with limited growth potential.

Keywords: Diameter-limit harvesting; genetic variability; red spruce; stand development

Document Type: Regular Article

Affiliations: Department of Forest Ecosystem Science University of Maine 5755 Nutting Hall Orono ME 05569-5755

Publication date: 2004-06-01

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Northern Journal of Applied Forestry covers northeastern, midwestern, and boreal forests in the United States and Canada.
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