Thinning has a positive effect on growth dynamics and growth–climate relationships in Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) trees of different crown classes
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Modification of stand density by thinning may buffer the response of tree growth and vigor to changes in climate by enhancing soil water availability.
We tested the impact of thinning intensity on cambial growth of Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis L.) under semi-arid, Mediterranean conditions.
A multiple thinning experiment was established on an Aleppo pine plantation in Spain. We analysed the stem growth dynamics of two different crown classes under four different thinning intensities (15 %, 30 %, and 45 % removal of the basal area) for 2 years, based on biweekly band dendrometer recordings. Local relative extractable soil water was derived from the use of a water balance model Biljou© (available at https://appgeodb.nancy.inra.fr/biljou/) and used as an explanatory variable.
Radial growth was mainly controlled by soil water availability during the growing season, and differed by crown class. The growth rates of dominant trees were significantly higher than the growth rates of suppressed trees. Removal of 30 % and 45 % of the initial basal area produced a growth release in both dominant and suppressed trees that did not occur under less intense thinning treatments.
Soil water availability was the main driver of radial growth during the growing season. Forest management confirmed its value for ameliorating the effects of water limitations on individual tree growth. These results may help managers understand how altering stand density will differentially affect diameter growth responses of Aleppo pine to short-term climatic fluctuations, promoting forests that are resilient to future climatic conditions.
KeywordsForest management Stand density Dendrometer Dominant Suppressed
The authors wish to thank Cristina Prieto, Irene Ruano and Lucía Risio for their help on the installation of the dendrometers, Inforriego and the Spanish Meteorological Agency for providing the meteorological data, Cristóbal Ordoñez for his help on the field data collection, and Jorge Leporati for his help with data analysis.
Funding was provided by the Spanish Research National Projects AGL-2007-65795-C02-01 and AGL2011-29701-C02-02.
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