, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 23-38

Effects of soil moisture and species composition on growth and productivity of trembling aspen and white spruce in planted mixtures: 5-year results

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Abstract

Aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) and white spruce (Picea glauca (Moench.) Voss) were planted 0.5 m apart in intimate mixtures in 5 × 4 m plots, with two moisture regimes—irrigation versus control—and five species compositions—pure aspen (Aw100), mixed aspen and spruce (Aw83Sw17, Aw50Sw50, Aw17Sw83), and pure spruce (Sw100), replicated six times. Fifth-year assessments indicated that irrigation increased individual tree growth (height, RCD, crown width), plot leaf area index (LAI), and wood biomass. Increased aspen composition reduced the availability of soil moisture and consequently the growth of individual trees. With increased aspen composition more growth was allocated to stem in aspen and to foliage in white spruce. Comparatively, aspen responded more to irrigation and thus their growth is more dependent on precipitation than that of spruce. Among the three growth variables assessed, height responded more to irrigation in both species. Equal mixtures and aspen-dominated mixtures in control plots had higher productivity in terms of total wood biomass in both absolute and relative terms. The implications of these findings are discussed in relation to managing aspen and white spruce mixedwood forests under increasing drought expected as a result of climate change.