Physiological and growth responses to thinning in eight-year-old loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) stands
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The influence of thinning at age eight on the photosynthetic rate, needle conductance, xylem water potential, water use efficiency and growth of loblolly pine trees was studied during their ninth and tenth growing seasons. Litterfall dynamics were monitored throughout the study period as well.
At the end of the second post-thinning growing season, trees in thinned plots had greater stem diameters, greater live crown ratios, greater live crown diameters and greater average volumes and basal areas than did trees in control plots. Significant physiological changes due to thinning were observed only in the lower crowns where needles were found to adapt to the sudden increase in available light by adjusting their physiology to resemble that of sun needles. Lower crown photosynthesis and needle conductance in thinned plots were more similar to upper crown values for these parameters than to lower crown, control plot values.
Foliage produced during the current year and measured after full elongation had a higher average photosynthetic rate, needle conductance and lower average water potential than did foliage in its second growing season during both 1988 and 1989. Additionally, the water use efficiency of current-year foliage was significantly greater than that of the second-year foliage.
In both thinned and control plots, significant diameter growth and photosynthesis continued throughout the dormant season although at a slower rate than during the growing season. Litterfall timing did not differ between thinned and control plots, nor did the amount of litterfall per unit basal area during the first year following thinning. Partial second-year data suggest that subsequent litterfall amounts will mirror the greater average crown size in thinned plots.
- Masters Theses