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Effects of thinning on drought vulnerability and climate response in north temperate forest ecosystems

Ecological Applications

By:
, , , and
DOI: 10.1890/13-0677.1

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Abstract

Reducing tree densities through silvicultural thinning has been widely advocated as a strategy for enhancing resistance and resilience to drought, yet few empirical evaluations of this approach exist. We examined detailed dendrochronological data from a long-term (>50 yrs) replicated thinning experiment to determine if density reductions conferred greater resistance and/or resilience to droughts, assessed by the magnitude of stand-level growth reductions. Our results suggest that thinning generally enhanced drought resistance and resilience; however, this relationship showed a pronounced reversal over time in stands maintained at lower tree densities. Specifically, lower-density stands exhibited greater resistance and resilience at younger ages (49 years), yet exhibited lower resistance and resilience at older ages (76 years), relative to higher-density stands. We attribute this reversal to significantly greater tree sizes attained within the lower-density stands through stand development, which in turn increased tree-level water demand during the later droughts. Results from response-function analyses indicate that thinning altered growth-climate relationships, such that higher-density stands were more sensitive to growing-season precipitation relative to lower-density stands. These results confirm the potential of density management to moderate drought impacts on growth, and they highlight the importance of accounting for stand structure when predicting climate-change impacts to forest systems.

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Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Effects of thinning on drought vulnerability and climate response in north temperate forest ecosystems
Series title:
Ecological Applications
DOI:
10.1890/13-0677.1
Volume
23
Issue:
8
Year Published:
2013
Language:
English
Publisher:
Ecological Society of America
Contributing office(s):
Southwest Biological Science Center
Description:
8 p.
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Ecological Applications
First page:
1735
Last page:
1742
Number of Pages:
8
Country:
United States
State:
Minnesota