EU: How Thinning can ruin your forest

The thinning response pattern for even-aged Sitka spruce is quantified
for different site types based on two thinning experiments in Denmark
and six comparable experiments in Great Britain, Norway and Sweden.
The effect of thinning from below on stand volume growth is strongly
site dependent, but heavy thinning usually leads to a reduction in
volume growth as compared with an unthinned stand growing under
similar site conditions.

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For some sites, typically those with stable and ample water supply and
a deeply developed root system, stand volume growth is maximized
through light thinning. For some other sites, typically those with a
high ground water table and a shallow root system, thinning reduces
stand volume growth and considerably so with increasing thinning
grade.

There seems to be a gradient in the reduction, so that it is
lessened with increasing rooting depth and with increasing stability
of water supply. Due to site-dependent variation in the relation
between height growth and stand volume growth as well as
site-dependent variation in thinning response pattern, it is
recommended to establish and maintain unthinned observation plots in
managed stands to ensure reliable growth and yield prognoses.

Such plots can serve as a reference for thinning practices as well as a
standard for potential volume growth. This recommendation could also
hold for other species and in other parts of the world.

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