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Heavy thinning in hinoki plantations in Shikoku (southwestern Japan) has limited effects on recruitment of seedlings of other tree species

Mahoko Noguchi, Kazuki Miyamoto, Shiro Okuda, Takeharu Itou, Atsushi Sakai
Journal of forest research 2016 v.21 no.3 pp. 131-142
Chamaecyparis obtusa, buried seeds, canopy, mixed forests, plantations, seed dispersal, seedlings, species recruitment, stems, surveys, transmittance, trees, understory, Japan
Heavy thinning may provide a feasible means to convert single-species coniferous plantations to broadleaved or mixed forests. To assess this possibility, we monitored tree seedling dynamics of other tree species, the understory microenvironment, and seed availability following heavy thinning (50 % by volume) in two hinoki (Chamaecyparis obtusa) plantations in Shikoku, southwestern Japan. Conventional (35 % by volume) and row thinning (50 % by volume) treatments were also applied at one of the sites. Diffuse transmittance in the understory dramatically increased after all thinning treatments then rapidly decreased, except after row thinning. Heavy thinning accelerated recruitment of small seedlings (with stems <30 cm high) at one of the sites. However, the densities of these seedlings declined sharply, and increases in the densities of larger seedlings recorded in subsequent surveys were very small. Furthermore, at the other site, recruitment of small seedlings under heavy thinning was equivalent to that under conventional thinning and lower than that under row thinning. Abundant species in the recruited seedlings were pioneer or subcanopy species found in the soil seed bank. Low seed rain density at both sites appeared to be responsible for the poor recruitment of canopy tree species. Our results suggest that heavy thinning had limited effects on the seedling recruitment of other tree species in these hinoki plantations due to insufficient seed rain and rapid canopy closure.