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Relationships between Tree Vigor Indices and a Tree Classification System Based upon Apparent Stem Defects in Northern Hardwood Stands

Moreau, Edouard, Bédard, Steve, Moreau, Guillaume, Pothier, David
Forests 2018 v.9 no.10
Acer saccharum subsp. saccharum, Betula alleghaniensis, forest stands, hardwood forests, temporal variation, trees, vigor, Quebec
Many northern hardwood stands include several low-vigor trees as a result of past management. To restore these degraded stands, partial cuts are applied with partly validated tree classification systems that are based upon apparent stem defects. We sampled 214 sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) and 84 yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis Britt.) trees from six sites covering the northern hardwood forest zone of the Province of Quebec, Canada. We evaluated their vigor with a four-class system, and quantified the growth efficiency index and several indices that were based solely upon radial growth. The growth efficiency index increased non-significantly with increasing tree vigor class. The five-year basal area increment (BAI<inf>-1-5</inf>) was significantly different between the lowest and highest tree vigor classes. Yet, temporal changes in BAI<inf>-1-5</inf> helped classify correctly only 16% of high-vigor trees that became poorly vigorous 8&ndash;10 years later. Overall, these results suggest that the tree classification system is weakly related to actual tree vigor and its application likely generates few significant gains in future stand vigor. Modifying and simplifying the tree vigor system must be considered to facilitate the tree marking process that is required to improve the vigor of degraded stands.