, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 125-133

Development of needle retention in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in 1957–1991 in northern and southern Finland

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The needle trace method was used to study retrospectively the long-term latitudinal variation in needle retention in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) in Finland. The mean annual summer needle retention (ANR) along the main stem varied from 3.4 to 6.0 needle sets during the period 1957–1991. The lowest values were observed in southern and the highest in northern Finland. The length of the growing season, expressed as the thermal sum (threshold value +5 °C), was negatively correlated with the mean ANR (r=-0.96). The geographical needle retention pattern (NRP) for the period 1957–1991 showed a clearly increasing trend from 1957 to 1969 (southern Finland) and to 1975 (northern Finland); thereafter, the NRP tended to decrease close to its minimum value recorded in 1991. The general level of the NRP was approximately 5.0 needle sets in northern Finland and 3.5–4.0 needle sets in southern Finland. The NRP, with its 6–12 year cycle for southern Finland, was clearly periodical. Differences in the NRP among the ten stands in southern Finland were small, whereas the said periodicity was missing and the differences were high among the stands in northern Finland. The results indicate that variation in the number of needle sets, viz. defoliation of pines, is a normal phenomenon. The role of net carbon assimilation as a regulator of the number of needle sets is discussed.