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Morphological response of conifer advance growth to canopy opening in mixedwood stands, in Quebec, Canada

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Abstract

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After release, balsam fir has greater ability than red spruce to rapidly capture available light and growing space in a wide range of canopy opening.

Abstract

A large proportion of yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis Britt.)—conifer stands feature abundant advance growth of shade-tolerant balsam fir (Abies balsamea [L.] Mill.) and red spruce (Picea rubens Sarg.), on which ecosystem-based regeneration strategies should capitalize. However, the morphological response of advanced regeneration to higher light levels following harvesting has yet to be described. Preferential carbon allocation to apical vs. lateral meristems has a significant implication on post-cut forest dynamics. We assessed the morphological response of balsam fir and red spruce saplings (1.3–4.0 m in height) to different levels of canopy opening (removal of 0, 40, 50, 60 and 100 % of the basal area) in two sites located in the Québec City region, Canada. Five years after cutting, the height growth (HG), lateral shoot growth (LG) and HG/LG ratio of the two conifer species were highest in the 100 % cut, intermediate in the three partial cuts, and lowest in the control. However, balsam fir had a 40 % higher HG and a 60 % higher LG, resulting in an HG/LG ratio 30 % lower than red spruce. At that time, both species increased their LG in the upper part of the crown in cutting treatments, although this shift was less pronounced for spruce in partial cuts. The number of internodal branches increased following canopy opening, while the number of branches per whorl was less impacted. Relationships between light availability and morphological variables were strong (pseudo-R 2 = 0.54–0.71) and comparable between the two conifer species. However, balsam fir had higher HG and LG, and produced more internodal branches at all light levels. Fir even responded to higher light levels (60–70 % of full light) than spruce (<60 %). Therefore, results from this study clearly demonstrate that balsam fir has greater ability than red spruce to capture available light and growing space in the short term and in a wide range of canopy opening.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to acknowledge Nelson Thiffault for commenting an earlier version of this manuscript and Aimée LeBreton for her English language editing assistance. Special thanks go to Jean-Pierre Lapointe, Maurice Gagnon, Julie Forgues, Carlo Gros-Louis, Daniel Guimond, Serge Williams, Éric Saulnier, Pascal Lainé, Étienne Du Berger and many summer students for their help during field measurements. Two anonymous reviewers and the associate editor are also acknowledged for their helpful comments. This study is part of Project 142332016 of the Direction de la recherche forestière, Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs du Québec.

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Correspondence to Marcel Prévost.

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Communicated by J. Major.

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Prévost, M., Dumais, D. & DeBlois, J. Morphological response of conifer advance growth to canopy opening in mixedwood stands, in Quebec, Canada. Trees 30, 1735–1747 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00468-016-1404-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00468-016-1404-7

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