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Competitive effects of woody and herbaceous vegetation in a young boreal mixedwood stand

Man, C. D., P. G. Comeau and D.G. Pitt. 2008. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 38: 1817-1828

Abstract

The influence of aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) and herbaceous (forb and grass) vegetation on resource availability and white spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss) growth were examined as part of a long-term experiment established in 2002 near Whitecourt, Alberta, Canada. During the 2005 grouwing season, we examined the effects of herbicide treatments designed to control only woody (triclopyr ester) or both woody and herbaceous (glyphosate) vegetation on leaf area index (LAI) of both the woody and herbaceous components and relationships among LAI and light, soil moisture, air temperature, soil temperature, nitrogen availability, and spruce growth. Treatments reduced LAI and increased light, soil nitrogen availability, and white spruce growth. There were no apparent effects of the treatments on soil moisture in 2005. Both the woody and herb-grass layers appear to be competing for light and soil nitrogen in this young plantation. Controlling only woody vegetation resulted in an increase in herbaceous and total LAI (dominated by the grass Calamagrostis Canadensis (Michx.) Beauv.) Spot treatment, involving control of vegetation within a 2 m radius of spruce seedlings while leaving 1 m of untreated ground between treated spots, may be a promising alternative to classical broadcast treatments for establishing spruce in a mixedwood stand. Spot treatments provided good growing conditions and reduced exposure of spruce seedlings to summer and winter frost injury during the first 3 years after planting.