, Volume 43, Issue 5-6, pp 679-693
Date: 25 May 2012

Effect of stock type characteristics and time of planting on field performance of aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) seedlings on boreal reclamation sites

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Aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx) has great potential as a reclamation species for mining sites in the boreal forest, but planting stock has shown poor field performance after outplanting. In this study we tested how different aspen seedling characteristics and planting times affect field outplanting performance on reclamation sites. We produced three different types of aspen planting stock, which varied significantly in seedling size, root-to-shoot ratio (RSR), and total non-structural carbohydrate (TNC) reserves in roots, by artificially manipulating shoot growth during seedling production. All three stock types were then field-planted either in late summer, late fall, or early spring after frozen storage. Seedlings were outplanted onto two reclaimed open-pit mining areas in the boreal forest region of central and east-central Alberta, Canada, which varied significantly in latitude, reclamation history, and soil conditions. Overall, height growth was better in aspen stock types with high RSR and TNC reserves. Differences in field performance among aspen stock types appeared to be more strongly expressed when seedlings were exposed to more stressful environmental site conditions, such as low soil nutrients and moisture. Generally, aspen seedlings planted with leaves in the summer showed the poorest performance, and summer- or fall-planted seedlings with no shoot growth manipulation had much greater stem dieback after the first winter. This indicates that the dormancy and hardening of the stem, as a result of premature bud set treatments, could improve the outplanting performance of aspen seedlings, particularly those planted during summer and fall.