Understanding tree growth responses after partial cuttings: A new approach.
Miguel Montoro Girona, Sergio Rossi, Jean-Martin Lussier, Denis Walsh, Hubert Morin.
Forest ecosystem management heads towards the use of partial cuttings. However, the wide variation in growth response of residual trees remains unexplained, preventing a suitable prediction of forest productivity. The aim of the study was to assess individual growth and identify the driving factors involved in the responses of residual trees. Six study blocks in even-aged black spruce [Picea mariana (Mill.) B.S.P.] stands of the eastern Canadian boreal forest were submitted to experimental shelterwood and seed-tree treatments. Individual-tree models were applied to 1039 trees to analyze their patterns of radial growth during the 10 years after partial cutting by using the nonlinear Schnute function on tree-ring series. The trees exhibited different growth patterns. A sigmoid growth was detected in 32% of trees, mainly in control plots of older stands. Forty-seven percent of trees located in the interior of residual strips showed an S-shape, which was influenced by stand mortality, harvested intensity and dominant height. Individuals showing an exponential pattern produced the greatest radial growth after cutting and were edge trees of younger stands with higher dominant height. A steady growth decline was observed in 4% of trees, represented by the individuals suppressed and insensitive to the treatment. The analyses demonstrated that individual nonlinear models are able to assess the variability in growth within the stand and the factors involved in the occurrence of the different growth patterns, thus improving understanding of the tree responses to partial cutting. This new approach can sustain forest management strategies by defining the best conditions to optimize the growth yield of residual trees.