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Comparison of Fixed Diameter-Limit and Selection Cutting in Northern Conifers

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Diameter-limit cutting is a common type of harvest in which all merchantable trees above specific size thresholds are removed. Despite a long history of application, controlled experiments of these harvests are rare and the cumulative effects of repeated diameter-limit cuts are largely unknown. The Penobscot Experimental Forest in Maine is the location of a long-term USDA Forest Service experiment in which both fixed diameter-limit and selection cutting have been applied at 20-year intervals since the early 1950s. After three entries, present value of gross harvest revenue was greater in the fixed diameter-limit than selection treatments. However, sawtimber volume and growth, total and merchantable volume, regeneration stem density, and inventory value all were lower in the fixed diameter-limit than selection stands. Accumulated value (harvest plus residual) and species composition did not differ between treatments. Within-treatment analysis revealed desirable directional changes in cull percentage and species composition in the selection but not diameter-limit cut stands, suggesting trends that may result in greater future treatment disparity. These data confirm the degrading effects of fixed diameter-limit relative to selection cutting, and reveal that greater short-term value removals are offset by lower residual stand volume and value.

Keywords: Diameter-limit cutting; high grading; northern conifers; selection cutting; uneven-aged silviculture

Document Type: Regular Article

Affiliations: 1: Northeastern Research Station USDA Forest Service 686 Government Road Bradley ME 04411 2: Northeastern Research Station USDA Forest Service 271 Mast Road Durham NH 03824

Publication date: June 1, 2005

More about this publication?
  • 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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