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Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock Stand and Tree Growth 10 Years after Precommercial Thinning in Southeast Alaska

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Ten years after precommercially thinning 16‐18-year-old naturally regenerated stands of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis [Bong.] Carr.) and western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla [Raf.] Sarg.) in southeast Alaska, neither species responded in height growth to spacing. Spruce diameter growth increased significantly following all thinning treatments, and among thinning treatments, there was a weak but increasing trend toward more rapid diameter growth at the wider spacings. Spruce basal areas increased almost twice as fast after thinning as without thinning, and radial growth continued to increase, whereas unthinned stands grew at a slower but steady rate. Western hemlock also showed a trend for increased diameter, but growth response was less than for spruce. Shrub control to enhance understory plant development for deer forage did not improve growth of either tree species. Branch diameter of Sitka spruce increased with spacing. Pruning led to epicormic sprouting in the 3 years following pruning with numbers inversely related to spacing. Sprouts developed and persisted in stands thinned to 200 or fewer stems per acre. Overall, pruning led to a small reduction in diameter growth at breast height.

Keywords: Sitka spruce; growth; pruning; sprouts; thinning; western hemlock

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-01-01

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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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