Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Mortality and growth of dwarf mistletoe-infected red and white fir and the efficacy of thinning for reducing associated losses.

Abstract

In managed forests dominated by true fir (Abies) species, stands are often restocked using understory trees retained during timber harvest, making the effects of dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium spp.) infestation on small true fir a concern. This study examined the response of small red (A. magnifica) and white (A. concolor) fir and their dwarf mistletoes (A. abietinum f.sp. magnificae and A. abietinum f.sp. concoloris, respectively) to precommercial thinning treatments in fir-dominated stands in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Tree diameters and dwarf mistletoe ratings were monitored from 1981 to 2001, and mortality was observed from 1981 to 2006. Red and white fir survival and radial growth decreased significantly with greater mistletoe ratings and increased with larger diameters and live crown ratios. Thinning significantly increased survival and growth of white, but not red fir. Over the course of the study, mistletoe ratings for both fir species did not change significantly in unthinned stands, but increased in thinned stands. However, while statistically significant, increases in mistletoe ratings in thinned stands were gradual and mistletoe ratings did not statistically differ between treatments 20 years post-thinning. Additionally, thinning did not significantly influence mistletoe spread to uninfected trees, indicating that precommercial thinning in lightly infested red and white fir stands will not likely result in substantial increases in dwarf mistletoe abundance over typical harvesting intervals. Overall, while severe dwarf mistletoe infection ratings reduced tree survival and growth, because ratings remained low, actual losses resulting from mistletoes during this study were minor and will not likely result in substantial economic losses over normal harvesting intervals. This finding indicates that precommercial thinning treatments designed specifically to compensate for mistletoe-associated losses may not be necessary when managing red and white fir for timber production.