Structure, growth and growing space efficiency of Pinus radiata (D. Don) trees as affected by their social position
Currently, silvicultural prescriptions such as thinning monospecific stands from above and transitioning from monospecific to mixed-species stands are scrutinised regarding their ability to reduce stress and damage. That the quantity and quality of the trees harvested by intermediate and final cuts will vary depending on the chosen prescription is likely but more or less neglected so far. Here we analyse 60 Pinus radiata (D. Don) trees earmarked for removal from the Jonkershoek thinning experiment at the West Cape, South Africa. The experiment comprises both thinning from above and below allowing for comparison of the structure and growth of dominant and subdominant trees removed at 11 years old. Thinning from above removed mainly dominant trees which were on average 44.3% larger in tree diameter, only 8.5% larger in tree height, but 83% larger in crown projection area and more than 25% tapering than subdominant trees extracted by thinning from below. The courses of diameter growth over age of the dominant trees were degressively asymptotic; those of subdominant trees were S-shaped, due to competitive pressure. The volume growth was exponential in both groups. However, the dominant trees achieved
2–3 times higher stem volumes at 10 years of age. Tree structure and growth were highly correlated: the mean annual volume increment showed a Pearson correlation of r = 0.64 with crown length, r = −0.76 with the current ratio of stem slenderness, and r = −0.70 with the competition index by Hegyi. Thus, crown length, slenderness and the competition index were most relevant in explaining tree growth. The analysis of the mode of competition indicated in both groups and in total a sub-proportional increase of stem growth with increasing size. Interestingly, growing space efficiency in terms of mean annual volume growth per crown projection area was similar in both groups.