The long-term effects of thinning and mixing on species and structural diversity of Chinese fir plantations

Abstract

Plantations are playing an increasingly important role in providing forest products and improving the ecological environment, but they also face many challenges, such as low biodiversity, severe pest and disease problems, reduced productivity, and diminished soil fertility. Reasonable management strategies are vital for their sustainability. In this study, we took a Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata (Lamb.) Hook.) plantation as an example to demonstrate the effects of thinning and mixing on the species diversity and structural diversity of plantations at the stand level over a rotation period (1993–2018). An intermediate thinning (26% of plant abundance) was conducted in a Chinese fir pure plantation in mid-age (2008), and a mixed forest stand of Chinese fir and Michelia macclurei Dandy was established directly. Thinning and mixing greatly increased the species diversity at the stand level, enhanced the mixture, transformed the pattern from regular to random distribution, and made the size differentiation of trees random. Thinning and mixing also greatly improved the mixture and dominance of Chinese fir. M. macclurei had an obvious advantage in tree size and maintained a high mixture proportion. Moreover, the diameter classes of the stands were bimodal. Chinese fir and M. macclurei showed a unimodal distribution of diameter, but other later-coming species with a larger number of individuals displayed a typical reverse J-shaped distribution. Our results suggest that both thinning and mixed planting may promote species diversity and structure over a long timescale, but thinning achieves these characteristics earlier because thinning directly manipulates structure in a way that accelerates stand development.

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Acknowledgements

This paper was financially supported by Guangxi special fund project for innovation-driven development (AA 17204087-8). Ph.D. student Xianyu Yao, master students Deyi Zhu, Haipeng Yang, Guo Sun, Liangning Liao and undergraduates Xian Li, Yongzhen Huang joined data collection. You Nong from the Experimental Center of Tropical Forestry, Chinese Academy of Forestry identified tree species.

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Correspondence to Shaoming Ye.

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Li, Y., He, J., Lu, L. et al. The long-term effects of thinning and mixing on species and structural diversity of Chinese fir plantations. New Forests (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11056-020-09794-2

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Keywords

  • Diameter distribution
  • Thinning
  • Plantation
  • Species diversity
  • Spatial structure