Forest management techniques such as intermediate stand-tending practices (e.g., thinning) can promote climatic resiliency in forest stands by moderating tree competition. Residual trees gain increased access to environmental resources (i.e., soil moisture, light), which in turn has the potential to buffer trees from stressful climatic conditions. The influences of climate (temperature and precipitation) and forest management (thinning method and intensity) on the productivity of red pine (Pinus resinosa Ait.) in Michigan were examined to assess whether repeated thinning treatments were able to increase climatic resiliency (i.e., maintaining productivity and reduced sensitivity to climatic stress). The cumulative productivity of each thinning treatment was determined, and it was found that thinning from below to a residual basal area of 14 m2·ha−1 produced the largest average tree size but also the second lowest overall biomass per acre. On the other hand, the uncut control and the thinning from above to a residual basal area of 28 m2·ha−1 produced the smallest average tree size but also the greatest overall biomass per acre. Dendrochronological methods were used to quantify sensitivity of annual radial growth to monthly and seasonal climatic factors for each thinning treatment type. Climatic sensitivity was influenced by thinning method (i.e., thinning from below decreased sensitivity to climatic stress more than thinning from above) and by thinning intensity (i.e., more intense thinning led to a lower climatic sensitivity). Overall, thinning from below to a residual basal area of 21 m2·ha−1 represented a potentially beneficial compromise to maximize tree size, biomass per acre, and reduced sensitivity to climatic stress, and, thus, the highest level of climatic resilience.
Additional publication details
Thinning increases climatic resilience of red pine