Kübler, D.; Hildebrandt, P.; Günter, S.; Stimm, B.; Weber, M.; Munoz, J.; Cabrera, O.; Zeilinger, J.; Silva, B. & Mosandl, R. (2020): <b>Effects of silvicultural treatments and topography on individual tree growth in a tropical mountain forest in Ecuador</b>. <i>Forest Ecology and Management </i> <b>457</b>, 117726.
Effects of silvicultural treatments and topography on individual tree growth in a tropical mountain forest in Ecuador
mosandl <at> forst.tu-muenchen.de
Dep. of Ecology and Ecosystem Management
Technische Universität München
Institute of Silviculture
Am Hochanger 13
Few studies have analysed the effect of silvicultural treatments on tree growth in tropical montane forests (TMF). These forests have strong topographic gradients, which influence growth rates and can potentially interact with silvicultural treatments. The present study investigated the relative effects of silvicultural treatments and topography on growth rates at the tree level in a TMF.<br/>
For this, we combined two distinct data sources: (1) field data from a silvicultural experiment in the Andes of southern Ecuador where liberation thinnings, i.e. the removal of the strongest crown competitors, were applied to potential crop trees (PCT) in 2004; and (2) topographic variables obtained from a high-resolution digital terrain model created from an airborne LIDAR survey. We fitted all data in a single linear mixed-effect model. Based on monitoring data from 174 released and 200 reference PCTs of 8 timber species, we calculated periodic annual increment (PAI) in DBH 6 years after the silvicultural treatment as our outcome variable. As topographic predictors, we used elevation and a topographic position index. To control for the by-species growth variability we included random intercepts for species and random slopes for the effect of treatment on species in our model.<br/>
PAI was significantly influenced by the topographic predictors. Over the elevational gradient, growth rates declined on average by 0.73 mm a−1 per 100 m increase in elevation. For the topographic position, PCTs in valleys had an average PAI of 2.02 mm a−1 compared to 1.04 mm a−1 on ridges. The effect of the silvicultural treatment across all species was only marginally significant, but its effect size was nevertheless within the range, but at the lower end of values reported for other tropical forest ecosystems (reference trees: 1.35 mm a−1; released trees: 1.60 mm a−1). Between species, baseline growth rates as well as the treatment effect varied considerably. Best linear unbiased predictions of species effects suggested that 5 species responded positively to the silvicultural treatment, whereas 3 species showed no treatment effect. Overall, tree growth varied substantially as indicated by the large residual variance that remained unaccounted for in the model.<br/>
Our findings indicate that positive effects of silvicultural treatments in TMF are likely to exist, but that they are possibly obfuscated by strong topographical gradients and large between-tree growth variability. Overall, our results suggest that “broad-brush” management prescriptions are not suited for sustainable forest management of TMF. Instead, granular and spatially explicit prescriptions that take the strong impact of topography on diameter growth as well as species-specific responses to silvicultural treatments into account should be favoured.