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Ten-year regeneration responses to varying levels of overstory retention in two productive southern British Columbia ecosystems

Newsome, Teresa A., Heineman, Jean L., Nemec, Amanda F. Linnell, Comeau, Philip G., Arsenault, André, Waterhouse, Michaela
Forest ecology and management 2010 v.260 no.1 pp. 132-145
natural regeneration, forest trees, tree growth, tree mortality, density, shade tolerance, silvicultural systems, light intensity, forest ecosystems, overstory, conifers, Larix occidentalis, Pseudotsuga menziesii, Picea glauca, Picea engelmannii, Thuja plicata, Abies lasiocarpa, understory, vegetation cover, logging, felling, methodology, plant response, British Columbia
We investigated survival and growth responses of planted and advance natural regeneration species of varying shade tolerance to partial retention harvesting in moist warm Interior Cedar-Hemlock (ICHmw2) and dry cool Montane Spruce (MSdk) ecosystems of southeastern British Columbia, Canada. Treatments included three levels of overstory basal area retention (none, light (∼25%), or heavy (∼50%)) installed by two harvest methods (handfelled or a pushover falling technique being tested for its ability to control the spread of root disease). After 10 years, growth of both planted and natural regeneration species of varying shade tolerance tended to increase with decreasing overstory retention and associated increases in light availability. In contrast, significant survival responses to retention level were lacking except in the case of shade-intolerant western larch. Harvest method had a variable effect on regeneration survival and growth. Where significant responses did occur, they were generally attributed to harvesting effects on the characteristics of planting microsites rather than root disease spread. Natural regeneration densities at the ICHmw2 site were high at all retention levels, whereas stocking was less consistent at the MSdk site. We concluded that moderately shade-tolerant to shade-tolerant interior spruce and western redcedar can, under conditions similar to those of our study sites, be successfully established under overstories of up to approximately 25m²/ha basal area, but that growth performance is likely to be significantly lower than in clearcuts. Despite early survival issues, conclusions regarding Douglas-fir were similar. Poorer survival and vigour of shade-intolerant western larch suggested this species is not suitable for regeneration in partial retention systems where timber production is the primary objective. Where non-timber objectives predominate, survival and acceptable growth of even a small proportion of larch could add to the diversity of the regenerating stand.