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Growth of Young Douglas-Fir Plantations Across a Gradient in Swiss Needle Cast Severity

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During the past decade, Swiss needle cast (SNC) damage has intensified in many Douglas-fir plantations in the Coast Range of Oregon, particularly along the immediate north coast. In plantations with severe symptoms, growth losses and reduced tree vigor are evident, but the magnitude of growth losses associated with varying intensities of damage is not known. A growth impact study was conducted in 1997 to quantify retrospectively the relationship between growth losses and visual symptoms in 10- to 30-yr-old Douglas-fir plantations in coastal northwestern Oregon, a population totaling 75,700 ha. A random sample of 70 Douglas-fir plantations was selected from the population and evaluated for Swiss needle cast severity. One 0.02 ha plot was destructively sampled in each plantation to reconstruct past height and basal area growth trends and to characterize foliage loss and distribution. The SNC “effect” was assessed by comparing growth of plantations with varying degrees of Swiss needle cast to growth of those that retained maximal amounts of foliage, after correcting for initial stand density, Douglas-fir growing stock, age, and site index. Of numerous possible SNC indices, mean needle retention (yr) explained the largest amount of variation in both basal area and top height growth. Prior to 1990, top height growth was similar across all plantations after correcting for site quality and plantation age; but, by 1992, top height growth losses appeared and were proportional to apparent foliage losses. In 1996, top height growth was reduced by up to 25% relative to plantations with little or no SNC. Basal area growth reductions began to appear around 1990, and in 1996 basal area growth of the most heavily damaged plantations was 35% less than the growth that would be expected in absence of SNC damage. The inferred volume growth loss for 1996 averaged 23% for the 75,700 ha target population, but this loss averaged as high as 52% for the most severely impacted plantations. West. J. Appl. For. 17(2):86–95.

Keywords: Douglas-fir plantations; Phaeocryptopus gaeumannii; Swiss needle cast; environmental management; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; growth loss; natural resource management; natural resources

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: 1: Oregon Department of Forestry, Salem, OR, 97310 2: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Corvallis, OR, 97331 3: Willamette Industries, Albany, OR, 97321

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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