Influence of gap position and competition control on the leaf physiology of planted Picea glauca and natural regeneration of Populus tremuloides
Publication date: 15 September 2018
Source:Forest Ecology and Management, Volume 424
Author(s): Nathan E. Rutenbeck, Brent R. Frey, Kristofer R. Covey, Graeme P. Berlyn, Oswald J. Schmitz, Bruce C. Larson, Mark S. Ashton
Maintaining white spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss) in mixture with trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) and other broadleaf competitors following timber harvest in boreal and sub-boreal mixed-wood stands is challenging. Under-planting spruce within harvest gaps is one potential strategy, but it’s unclear which gap environments favor spruce in relation to aspen. Here we test the effect of gap position and woody release treatment on leaf area development and growth physiology of spruce and aspen. Five positions were measured from the southern understory through the gap center to the northern understory in replicated strip cuts. The woody release treatment cut all stems around spruce including aspen in subplots within each experimental gap; other subplots were left un-cut for comparison. We measured leaf area per wet weight, leaf photosynthesis, stomatal conductance, and transpiration in low- and full-light conditions. We also assessed photosynthetic plasticity in relation to light. Overall, aspen maintained higher leaf area per unit wet weight than spruce, but spruce leaf area was more sensitive to changes in gap position. Aspen also maintained higher photosynthesis and transpiration rates than spruce under both light conditions, and woody release treatment. The magnitude of difference in gas exchange rates between the two species, however, depended significantly on woody release treatment and gap position for photosynthesis, and on gap position for transpiration. Photosynthetic plasticity was not significantly different across species, gap position, or woody release treatment. Our results indicate that in order to ensure the competitive advantage of spruce in mixed-wood boreal stands, forest managers should concentrate spruce planting and competition control efforts in the centers of canopy openings.
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