Main content area

Experiments for alternative management of forest reserves: effects of partial cutting on stem growth and mortality of large oaks

Götmark, Frank
Canadian journal of forest research = 2009 v.39 no.7 pp. 1322-1330
forest reserves, forest management, silvicultural practices, tree growth, stems, tree mortality, logging, Quercus, basal area, conservation areas, temperate forests, linear models, Sweden
Although protected forests are usually kept as free of human disturbance as possible, careful cutting may favour biodiversity in such areas. However, the use of heavy machinery during cutting operations may have a negative impact on protected forests. The large oaks (Quercus spp.) found in many temperate nature reserves have a rich associated biodiversity. In 25 conservation forests in Sweden, the basal area growth and mortality of 250 large oaks (31-110 cm DBH) were compared between plots that were partially cut to promote the growth and survival of oaks and undisturbed plots. Each forest had one treatment plot (1 ha) and one undisturbed reference plot (1 ha) with similar levels of canopy cover. In 2002-2003, about 25% of the basal area was harvested in treatment plots, thereby increasing canopy openness from 14% to 33%. Cutting increased the mean relative basal area growth of large oaks (49% by plot, 22% by tree) after four seasons (P = 0.026). However, in nine forests, the growth rate was not higher in the treated plot than in the reference plot. Mortality, apparently due to cutting, was recorded only in one forest, where 18 large oaks died. Tree condition (percentage of dead large branches in crown) was the best (negative) predictor of growth rate, and openness around oak crown was also a (positive) predictor. Partial cutting favoured the growth of oaks and may be recommended, but a “hands-off” policy is also effective for these conservation forests.