Site establishment practices influence loblolly pine mortality throughout the stand rotation
During a rotation, land managers need to estimate yields, update inventories, and evaluate stand dynamics. All of these factors in land management are heavily influenced by tree mortality. Tree mortality can, in turn, be influenced by land management practices from the inception of the stand and throughout the rotation. We describe the impact of organic matter removal and soil compaction during stand establishment on loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) mortality over the course of 15 years. We also describe the impact of understory control throughout the study on tree mortality. In this study, soil compaction did not impact tree mortality at any time. Removal of surface organic matter impacted tree mortality, with the least intensive practices (bole only removal) resulting in the greatest tree mortality. This effect, observed very early in the rotation, was probably due to immobilization of essential nutrients. Control of the understory became a significant factor to tree mortality late in the rotation as intraspecific competition for light became an important consideration. Site amelioration, via regional Best Management Practices, negated the impact of competition control on mortality.