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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Exploring the interplay between within-stand variation and thinning practices in southern Sweden

Persson, Magnus; Bader, Martin Karl-Friedrich; Holmstrom, Emma


The state of within-stand variation (WSV) in boreal, coniferous production forests and how it is dealt with in thinning operations is a scarcely researched topic. In the autumn of 2018, we surveyed a series of Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst) or Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) dominated production stands scheduled for first commercial thinning from below. Here, we evaluate the potential causes of WSV in basal area, how WSV was addressed in the thinning operations, and finally how the stands and subsequent thinning practice conformed with the basal area target specified in the thinning guidelines. WSV in the yield attributes was defined as the dispersion in a stand attribute within a stand and quantified using the Qn scale estimator (a robust measure of dispersion). First, WSV in basal area at the time of first thinning was evaluated as a function of WSV in stem number and WSV in site index. Next, yield attributes before and after thinning were compared using paired ttests, and the future development of WSV in basal area was evaluated using linear mixed-effects models. Finally, the thinning practice was evaluated before and after thinning by modelling the compliance with the basal area target as a function of stem number and dominant height, also using linear mixed-effects models. WSV in basal area appeared to be influenced by WSV in site index and WSV in stem number for Norway spruce, but not for Scots pine. Thinning reduced the WSV in basal area, standing volume, and stem number, while dominant height, quadratic mean diameter and basal area weighted mean height remained unaffected. At first thinning, compliance with the thinning guideline increased with increasing stem density and dominant height. However, moderate to high compliance with the basal area target in the thinning guidelines was only reached for plots with elevated dominant height (>15 m) in combination with high stem number (>2250 N ha-1). Thus, the recommended range in dominant height (12-14 m) for first thinning was generally exceeded, which may be attributed to the generally low stem number at the time of thinning. This study suggests that sub-optimal regeneration efforts and management of young forests can lead to WSV across a wide range of stand attributes, and likely also reductions in yield. Thinning decreased WSV in basal area, standing volume and stem number, however, the plots were heavily thinned to such a degree that it could potentially cause production losses.


Thinning; Within-stand variation; Scots pine; Norway spruce; Boreal

Published in

Forest Ecology and Management
2024, Volume: 561, article number: 121888
Publisher: ELSEVIER

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science

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