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Effects of silvicultural management on wood quality in conifers

Review on the impacts of management and environment on wood properties within and between trees

The area of conifer plantations has increased in recent decades as a result of their usage in a wide range of forest products. This has been accompanied by an increase in growth rate for many cultivated trees; however, there has been little focus on how this has impacted desirable wood qualities. A review published in the journal Forests has sought to summarise findings on how these properties are impacted by different silvicultural practices, and the environment, both within and between trees. Some common metrics of wood quality are wood density and microfibril angle which help to determine properties such as shrinkage and the modulus of elasticity and rupture.

The area of planted forests has increased greatly in recent years; loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) and radiata pine (Pinus radiata D.Don) are two of the most globally common conifer plantation species. This review compares the impacts of differing management techniques and modelling approaches to predict property variation within conifers but with particular focus on these species. Numerous studies show the positive impact of silvicultural management on growth however many of these approaches negatively influence wood quality. Common silvicultural practices include selection of improved tree stocks, altering plating density, manging competition and thinning and fertilisation mid-rotation.

Lower initial planting density can reduce establishment costs and accelerate growth, allowing the trees to be harvested at an earlier age. However this can also stimulate early diameter growth, leading to a larger corewood zone and more knots, equating to decreased lumber recovery. Increasing initial planting density has been shown to induce varied effects, however, numerous studies report increases in SG, MOE and MOR under a higher initial planting density. The use of fertilisers and other inputs in plantations is increasing generally in plantations but especially in loblolly pine. It is common practice to use herbicides to reduce competition in the early stages of growth which can increase core wood diameter but has little other effect on wood properties at the early stage. Thinning and fertilisation at the mid-ration stage produces a growth response and can negatively affect wood properties as a result. However, this is highly dependent on the rate of fertilizer application, site conditions and stand age. Irrigation is not a common treatment in plantations so is understudied.

Wood quality predicting models are available for numerous plantation conifers. This allows growers to predict qualities in trees at a given age at the level of whole tree to individual rings. These were initially linear-regression models that interacted core wood properties to whole stem properties. Later models began using non-linear models and data on the variation within trees to allow prediction of within-tree variability.

Wood properties are valued differently depending on the intended final product. Therefore understanding the impact of management decisions and growth conditions on the varying parameters of wood quality is important for generating optimum usable wood volume.

Read the full paper here: Schimleck, L., Antony, F., Dahlen, J. and Moore, J., 2018. Wood and Fiber Quality of Plantation-Grown Conifers: A Summary of Research with an Emphasis on Loblolly and Radiata Pine. Forests, 9(6), p.298.

To find over 100 similar papers use the following search in the Forest Science Database:"Pinus" AND "plantations" AND ("wood properties" OR "wood quality") AND ("silviculture" OR "forestry practices")

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • Ellen Baker
  • Date
  • 23 January 2019
  • Source
  • Schimleck, L., Antony, F., Dahlen, J. and Moore, J
  • Subject(s)
  • Management