White spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss) plantations have historically been an important source of high-quality forest products in the Great Lakes Region of North America. Thinning in spruce plantations is a common silvicultural practice for reducing competition and promoting resiliency to forest health threats such as eastern spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana Clemens), a native forest pest of eastern North America. Spruce budworm larvae feed on the foliage of trees, which reduces growth and potentially causes mortality during an outbreak. There has been continual spruce budworm defoliation in northern Minnesota, U.S.A., since the mid-1950s, with higher levels of defoliation in the late 1990s. This research modeled the diameter growth response of white spruce 18 years after initial thinning in stands that presently range between 44 and 64 years old. Some stands received a second thinning in recent years. We used generalized nonlinear least squares and nonlinear mixed-effects models to estimate annual diameter growth using common tree and stand metrics. Growth model performance was improved by including thinning and frequency of spruce budworm defoliation as modifiers of diameter growth. Results of this study highlight how thinning in combination with insect disturbance affect diameter growth in white spruce plantations of northern Minnesota.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Nathan Paul, Brian Anderson, and numerous other individuals for assistance in field sampling and data collection throughout this study. Support for this research was provided by funds from the Hubachek Wilderness Research Center at the University of Minnesota and by the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station.
- Forest health
- Growth and yield
- Picea glauca