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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2018

Evaluation of 10-year temporal and spatial variability in structure and growth across contrasting commercial thinning treatments in spruce-fir forests of northern Maine, USA

Kuehne, Christian; Weiskittel, Aaron; Pommerening, Arne; Wagner, Robert G.


Key message Detailed measures of growth pattern and structural heterogeneity applied in this study helped to quantify the immediate effects of various thinning regimes on forest structure and the resulting alterations in tree size as well as observed longer term stand dynamics.Context Forest management, stand structure, and tree growth are highly inter-correlated. Prior analyses, however, have resulted in mixed outcomes with limited success in revealing ecological mechanisms.Aims The study aimed at evaluating the relationship between forest structure and stand dynamics by applying several sophisticated measures of growth pattern and structural heterogeneity.Methods Data from a controlled and fully stem-mapped commercial thinning experiment with seven contrasting treatments including a non-thinned control at six locations across the Acadian Forest of Maine, USA, was used. Stand-level attributes examined included tree size and growth heterogeneity, spatial tree distribution, and growth dominance.Results Thinning generally reduced stand structural heterogeneity compared to the non-thinned control. In addition, the spatial arrangement of trees changed from fully random (non-thinned control) to a more clustered (removal of dominant and co-dominant individuals) or regular distribution (removal of intermediate and suppressed individuals). Overall, stand growth exhibited increasing (non-thinned control, removal of intermediate and suppressed individuals) or decreasing growth dominance of large trees (removal of co-dominant competitors). Forwarder trails increased basal area growth of individual trees up to a distance from the trail of approximately 5 m.Conclusion Findings of this study validate an earlier insight according to which interactions between management practices, forest structure, and tree growth form a permanent feedback loop.


Stand structure; Spatial tree pattern; Growth dominance; Balsam fir; Red spruce

Published in

Annals of Forest Science
2018, Volume: 75, number: 1, article number: 20

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    Forest Science

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