Scholarly Communications Project


Basal Area Growth and Crown Dynamics in a Loblolly Pine Spacing Trial

by

Philip J. Radtke

Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Science

Approved

Harold E. Burkhart, Chair
Timothy G. Gregoire
Shepard M. Zedaker

August 2, 1996
Blacksburg, Virginia


Abstract

Relationships between the culmination of basal area growth and degree of crown closure in loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) were investigated. A spacing trial established on the lower Appalachian Piedmont and Atlantic Coastal Plain provided the data for the investigation. Test plots were planted at densities ranging from 303 to 2723 stems per acre, and at various rectangular and square spacings. Annual stem and crown measurements were used to derive the sought-after relationships.

The age of basal area culmination was found to be inversely related to both planting density and site index. Crown closure was advanced on sites of relatively high quality, exhibiting an approximately linear increase with time from planting until the age of basal area culmination. The slope of this trend increased with planting density. The degree of crown closure at the age of basal area culmination was significantly higher on narrowly-spaced plots than it was on widely-spaced plots; however, it did not vary significantly with site index. Although crown closure is generally accelerated on high quality sites, the relatively early culmination of basal area growth on such sites offsets the increase - the net result being that crown closure at culmination age does not vary significantly with site differences.

Crown closure indices can be used to determine whether or not a stand has reached the culmination of basal area growth; however, more readily available information on spacing and site index can be used to make the same prediction. The results of this study might be most useful to modelers of early stand dynamics in loblolly pine and other commercially important pines.

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