The effects of spacing and thinning on stand and tree characteristics of 38-year-old loblolly pine
The effects of early and continuous density control on the characteristics of mature loblolly pine (Pinus taedaL.) were measured at age 38 and analyzed. Trees in plots planted at spacings of 1.8 x 1.8, 2.4 x 2.4, 2.7 x 2.7, 3.0 x 3.0, and 3.7 x 3.7 m were either left unthinned or thinned every 5 years beginning at age 18, to residual basal areas of 27.5, 23.0, 18.4, and 13.8 m2 ha-1. Trees thinned from plot buffer zones at age 38 were selected to represent a final harvest cross-section of each treatment for evaluation of bole form, component biomass, and crown architecture. Volume and biomass of cut trees from all thinnings were included with the age 38 data for stand level yield comparisons. Results show thinning effects were generally more pronounced than spacing effects. Trees of the same diameter at breast height and total height from heavily thinned stands had more cylindrical lower boles, more upper stem taper, longer crowns with more and larger branches, more total foliage, and hence more biomass than trees from unthinned or lightly thinned stands. All levels of thinning increased the yield of the stand in terms of foliage and branch biomass, while only light or moderate thinning increased bole biomass and volume yields. The magnitude of these differences are presented.