Changes in Ponderosa Pine Site Productivity following Removal of Understory Vegetation
- M. D. Busse ,
- P. H. Cochran and
- J. W. Barrett
Competition from understory vegetation for water and nutrients can limit productivity of young forest stands. Less is known of the effect of understory vegetation on long-term stand growth or soil organic properties. The effect of understory vegetation on periodic annual increments (PAIs) of basal area, height, and volume for ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Dougl.) in central Oregon at 4- or 5-yr intervals was examined for a 35-yr period. Soil C, N, and microbial biomass C (MBC) were also quantified after 32 and 35 yr with and without understory vegetation on a sandy loam pumice soil (Xeric Vitricryand). Five tree spacings, ranging from 2.0 to 8.0 m (154–2469 trees ha−1), in combination with two understory treatments (understory vegetation present or continuously absent) were installed in 1959. Total understory vegetation cover averaged 35% between 1959 and 1994 for treatments with understory vegetation present, and was dominated by three shrub species: antelope bitterbrush [Purshia tridentata (Pursh) DC.], greenleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos patula Green), and snowbrush (Ceanothus velutinus Dougl. ex Hook.). Covariance analyses of PAIs for each successive interval were performed using appropriate stand parameters at the start of each interval as covariates. Tree growth was reduced by competing understory vegetation during the first 12 to 20 yr only; understory vegetation did not reduce the adjusted PAIs during the last 15 yr. Soil C and N were measured incrementally to a depth of 24 cm. Presence of understory vegetation resulted in greater C and N in the O horizon and upper 4 to 12 cm of mineral soil. Seasonal MBC, measured at 14-d intervals from May to November, was greater when understory vegetation was present. The results suggest that understory vegetation plays an important role in maintaining soil quality.Please view the pdf by using the Full Text (PDF) link under 'View' to the left.
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