Journal Article

The Role of Forest Tent Caterpillar Defoliations and Partial Harvest in the Decline and Death of Sugar Maple

Henrik Hartmann and Christian Messier

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 102, issue 3, pages 377-387
Published in print September 2008 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online July 2008 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcn104
The Role of Forest Tent Caterpillar Defoliations and Partial Harvest in the Decline and Death of Sugar Maple

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry

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Background and Aims

Natural and anthropogenic disturbances can act as stresses on tree vigour. According to Manion's conceptual model of tree disease, the initial vigour of trees decreases as a result of predisposing factors that render these trees more vulnerable to severe inciting stresses, stresses that can then cause final vigour decline and subsequent tree death. This tree disease model was tested in sugar maple (Acer saccharum) by assessing the roles of natural and anthropogenic disturbances in tree decline and death.

Methods

Radial growth data from 377 sugar maple trees that had undergone both defoliations by insects and partial harvest were used to estimate longitudinal survival probabilities as a proxy for tree vigour. Radial growth rates and survival probabilities were compared among trees subjected to different levels of above- and below-ground disturbances, between periods of defoliation and harvest, and between live and dead trees.

Key Results

Manion's tree disease model correctly accounts for vigour decline and tree death in sugar maple; tree growth and vigour were negatively affected by a first defoliation, predisposing these trees to death later during the study period due to a second insect outbreak that initiated a final vigour decline. This decline was accelerated by the partial harvest disturbance in 1993. Even the most severe anthropogenic disturbances from partial harvest did not cause, unlike insect defoliation, any growth or vigour declines in live sugar maple.

Conclusions

Natural disturbances acted as predisposing and inciting stresses in tree sugar maple decline and death. Anthropogenic disturbances from a partial harvest at worst accelerated a decline in trees that were already weakened by predisposing and inciting stresses (i.e. repeated insect defoliations). Favourable climatic conditions just before and after the partial harvest may have alleviated possible negative effects on growth resulting from harvesting.

Keywords: Manion; tree disease model; disturbance; Acer saccharum; tree mortality; tree vigour

Journal Article.  7387 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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