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Contrasting Release Approaches for a Mixed Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera)–Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) Stand

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Early release from competitors can be used to influence the species composition, quality, and rate of development of young stands. Release strategies can vary in intensity, ranging from complete removal of competitors and infrequent future entries (early, heavy, infrequent [EHI]) to lighter entries that are repeated more frequently (early, light, often [ELO]). It is unclear, however, which strategy is more successful for producing high-quality birch sawtimber (Betula papyrifera Marsh.) in mixed stands with aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.). We evaluated the effects of various release intensities on the growth and mortality of a 16–18-ft-tall natural aspen–paper birch stand in Minnesota following density reductions from 1,500–3,000 trees ac−1 (trees per acre [TPA]) to 750 (ELO750), 500 (EHI500), and 250 (EHI250) TPA. After 6 years, paper birch was overtopped by aspen and contributed only 14% of basal area in control plots, but it occupied all diameter classes and contributed 77–87% of basal area in release plots. The basal area and volume of all paper birch and of only paper birch crop trees (100 largest TPA) were highest in lightly released ELO750 and lowest in control plots. Growth of mean quadratic diameter, basal area, and volume of paper birch was 2–3 times higher in release plots but independent of release intensity. Early release is necessary to maintain paper birch dominance, but there is no short-term advantage among treatment intensities. Long-term growth simulations using the Forest Vegetation Simulator suggest that merchantable timber production was unaffected by release strategy but that the EHI250 strategy produced the most birch sawtimber (40 times as much as in ELO750).
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Keywords: Betula papyrifera; Forest Vegetation Simulator; crop tree; growth; release

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-09-01

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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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