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Influence of precommercial thinning on understory vegetation of young-growth Sitka spruce forests in southeastern Alaska

Cole, Elizabeth C., Hanley, Thomas A., Newton, Michael
Canadian journal of forest research = 2010 v.40 no.4 pp. 619-628
coniferous forests, Picea sitchensis, Tsuga heterophylla, forest thinning, understory, vegetation cover, deer, Odocoileus hemionus, forage, food availability, brush control, herbicides, pesticide application, wildlife food habits, Alaska
The effects of precommercial thinning on the understory vegetative cover of 16- to 18-year-old spruce-hemlock (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carriere - Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg.) stands were studied in seven replicate areas over seven growing seasons postthinning. Vegetative cover was analyzed at the class level, but species-specific effects were examined in relation to their value as food for Sitka black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis Cowan). When compared with unthinned controls, thinned stands (3.6-6.3 m spacing) had significantly greater understory cover. However, all thinned spacings led to similar understory cover. Conifer cover recovered to about two-thirds of its prethinning level within seven growing seasons posttreatment. Understory nonconiferous cover increased during the first 2-4 years postthinning but began to decline with increasing conifer cover during the next 3 years, nearly reaching pretreatment levels by year 7. In unthinned understories, vegetative cover had declined and was significantly lower than that beneath thinned stands. Summer food resource values for deer were increased by thinning. Winter food resource values were increased by thinning for snow-free conditions but were unaffected for conditions when herb-layer forbs were buried by snow.