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Research article2014Peer reviewed

Long-term responses of Scots pine and Norway spruce stands in Sweden to repeated fertilization and thinning

Bergh, Johan; Nilsson, Urban; Allen, H. Lee; Johansson, Ulf; Fahlvik, Nils


Recent investigations have shown that annual wood production in Sweden can be increased by 30 million m(3) per year in a long-term perspective (>50 years) by using new forest management methods such as new tree species or seedling materials. However, to meet the increased demands during the next 20 years, Sweden will have to rely on silvicultural methods available today. Growth in boreal and cold temperate forest is with only few exceptions limited by nutrients availability, primarily nitrogen, and one way to satisfy the increased demands in a short-term perspective is nitrogen fertilization. A set of thinning and fertilization experiments were started in the 1960's in Scots pine and Norway spruce stands over the whole of Sweden representing different soil, moisture and vegetation types. We used data from these experiments to examine the long-term effects of repeated fertilization in thinned stands on growth, stand development, and yield. The 34 Scots pine sites and 13 Norway spruce sites included in our analyses had at least four treatment plots (no thinning, repeated light thinnings, repeated light thinnings with repeated N fertilization, and repeated light thinnings with repeated N + P fertilization). In northern Sweden, 100 kg N ha(-1) and 150 kg N ha(-1) were applied at each fertilization event for Scots pine and Norway spruce stands, respectively. In southern Sweden, 150 kg ha(-1) N was applied in Scots pine stands and 200 kg ha(-1) N in Norway spruce stands. Phosphorus was applied at the rate of 100 kg ha(-1). Several sites also included non-thinned fertilized plots. Pine stands but not spruce stands were responsive (up to 25% more growth depending of the attribute assessed) to repeated fertilization. Surprisingly, the non-thinned pine stands showed strong continuing response to fertilization throughout the 30+ year observation period resulting in higher cumulative volume response than the thinned stands. In thinned stands incremental volume response to fertilization continued but slowly diminished with time indicating that fertilization and thinning effects were less than additive. However, thinning and fertilization effects were additive for diameter growth. Fertilization accelerated stand development with significant shifts in diameter distributions to larger and potentially more valuable trees. Conclusively, repeated nitrogen fertilization is a silvicultural practice that will result in significant and sustained increases in Scots pine production. (C) 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Pinus sylvestris; Picea abies; Nitrogen; Phosphorous; Interactions; Guidelines

Published in

Forest Ecology and Management
2014, Volume: 320, pages: 118-128