, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 1117–1126 | Cite as

Comparison of self-thinning models: an exercise in reasoning

  • Boris Zeide
Original Paper


Self-thinning of forest stands is one of the clearest and best-documented examples of natural selection. Besides their theoretical interest, understanding of self-thinning is important for forest practice because it produces estimates of stand density and stocking. There is a considerable diversity of views on the processes causing self-thinning, predicting variables, and analytical form of models. The most popular model was proposed by Reineke (J Agric Res 46(7):627–638, 1933) over 70 years ago. This study compares existing models of self-thinning and provides evidence that the virtually unknown model developed by Artur Nilson describes self-thinning more realistically than Reineke’s. While in the Reineke model the rate of mortality (the slope of self-thinning line) is assumed to be constant, it changes from 0 to −2 in Nilson’s model. As a result, Nilson’s model is slightly but consistently more accurate than Reineke’s. Although both models are empirical, their analysis suggests several general conclusions about self-thinning.


Aging Maximum density Mortality Stand density Stand dynamics Stocking Tree growth 



The author thanks Mike Olson, Curtis VanderSchaaf, and two anonymous referees for their valuable comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Forest ResourcesUniversity of ArkansasMonticelloUSA
  2. 2.MariettaUSA

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