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Fate of Overstory Trees and Patterns of Regeneration 12 Years After Clearcutting with Reserve Trees in Southwest Washington

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Changes in management objectives for some forestlands in the Pacific Northwest have spurred interest in the creation of multistoried stands and the use of natural regeneration systems, but data on such systems are lacking. We assessed the status of the overstory trees and the regeneration 12 yr after a clearcut harvest with reserve trees in an even-aged, 145-yr-old Douglas-fir stand on a moderately productive site (site class 3) in southwest Washington. The 15 ha harvest unit was superimposed over two areas differentially thinned 15 and 34 yr before clearcutting. The clearcut harvest retained 18 trees/ha with a mean diameter of 63 cm.

The reserved overstory trees had a 93% survival rate after 12 yr; most dead trees had been windthrown. Diameter growth for the reserved trees averaged 3.3 cm and was greatest during the most recent 3 yr period, which also had the highest growing-season precipitation. In a 1 ha mapped area, there were 5,854 seedlings/ha, and more than 99% of the regeneration was Douglas-fir. Most seedlings were less than 2 m tall. Seedling density was somewhat clumped (value of 2.1 for Pielou's index of nonrandomness), but 79% of randomly located 4.04 m 2 (mil-acre) plots and 98% of 5 × 5 m grid cells had at least one conifer seedling. There was no obvious pattern of regeneration based on direction from the reserved trees, but both seedling density and seedling size within the drip lines of reserved tree crowns were less than in the rest of the area. The number of seedlings was similar on the two halves of the plot corresponding to the original thinning blocks, but seedling size and age differed. In the half of the study plot that had been twice lightly thinned, only 14% of the seedlings were >0.5 m tall; however, 41% of the seedlings were >0.5 m in the block that had been thinned more heavily. There was no difference between the thinning blocks in the ages of seedlings ≤0.5 m tall (mean age of 5 yr). This example of clearcutting with reserve trees resulted in reasonable survival of the overstory trees and adequate stocking but slow growth rates in the naturally regenerated Douglas-fir. Heavier thinning before harvest was associated with more advance regeneration, more shrub cover, and less windthrow of the reserved trees than in the more lightly thinned block. If an abundance of tree species other than Douglas-fir was desired on this site, interplanting would be required. West. J. Appl. For.17(2):78–85.

Keywords: Douglas-fir; Thinning; environmental management; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; natural resource management; natural resources; tree growth and survival

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: Pacific Northwest Research Station, 3625-93rd Ave SW, Olympia, WA, 98512-9193

Publication date: 2002-04-01

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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 Western Journal of Applied Forestry covers the western United States, including Alaska, and western Canada; WJAF will also consider manuscripts reporting research in northern Mexico that has potential application in the southwestern United States.
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