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Edge effects in mixed conifer group selection openings: tree height response to resource gradients


Replicated circular openings ranging in size from 0.1 to 1 ha were cleared on a Sierran mixed conifer forest in 1996 at the Blodgett Forest Research Station, California and planted with seedlings of six native species. After 3 years of growth, heights of all trees were measured and analyzed according to species, opening size, and location within the opening. To determine the cause of the edge influence on height, we measured differences along north-south transects in extension growth, pre-dawn water potential, and light availability for three species of trees: giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), and Douglas-fir (Ptseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii). The sequence of mean height from tallest to shortest based on species was: giant sequoia > incense cedar > Douglas-fir > ponderosa pine > white fir > sugar pine. For all species combined, a ten-fold increase in the area of the opening corresponded to a 34% increase in mean height. Trees were tallest on average in the north rows and shortest in the south rows. There was no difference in height between trees in the east and west rows. As expected, resource availability was greatest near the center and least near the edges with north edges receiving significantly more light than southern edges. In general, observed edge effects on sapling height growth were correlated with light and water supply. However there were important differences between species in the nature of the co-limitation. Giant sequoia growth was most sensitive to light and water availability. Together they explained more than 47% of the observed variation in giant sequoia height. In contrast, only light was a significant predictor of ponderosa pine performance. Douglas-fir heights were significantly related to both light and water but there was more unexplained variability in the Douglas-fir model compared to the other species. These highly controlled experimental group openings provide a standard reference for silviculturalists using the group selection method of regeneration. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

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