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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Does the type of silvicultural practice influence spruce budworm defoliation of seedlings?

Lavoie, Janie; Girona, Miguel Montoro; Grosbois, Guillaume; Morin, Hubert


Spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana (Clem)) is the main defoliator in the boreal forest of North America, and its outbreaks have major ecological and economic consequences and represent a challenge for forest management. Numerous studies have addressed the effects of this defoliator on mature trees, whereas the effects of spruce budworm on regeneration remain elusive. Furthermore, intensive exploitation practices during the last decades have left a large area of the Canadian boreal forest in an early development stage. In this context, it becomes vital to understand those factors affecting the severity of spruce budworm-related defoliation on regeneration. Here, we determine the defoliation severity of black spruce and balsam fir seedlings in both mature pure black spruce and black spruce-balsam fir stands subjected to two different silvicultural treatments (clear-cutting and partial cutting). Defoliation intensity varied between stand types, silvicultural treatments, species, and height classes. Seedlings in black spruce-balsam fir stands experienced twice the defoliation of those in pure black spruce stands (black spruce seedlings 10% vs. 23%; balsam fir seedlings 29% vs. 47%, respectively). Harvesting methods also influenced seedling defoliation. Under clear-cutting, black spruce seedlings (24%) were three times as defoliated as black spruce seedlings in partial cutting stands (8%), whereas balsam fir seedlings in clear-cutting plots experienced twice the defoliation (42%) of balsam fir seedlings in partial cutting plots (20%). The level of defoliation also increased with seedling height. This study will help silvicultural strategies adapt to the effects of natural disturbance regimes. As the intensity and severity of defoliator outbreaks are expected to increase under climate change, these results will help guide forest management strategies to select harvesting methods that will limit the effects of defoliation on conifer regeneration.


balsam fir; black spruce; boreal forest; clear‐cut; forest damages; global change; insect outbreaks; natural disturbances; partial cuttings; seedlings; silviculture; sustainable forest management

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2021, Volume: 12, number: 4, article number: e03506Publisher: WILEY

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