Variable Retention Harvesting (VRH) is a forest management practice applied to enhance forest growth, improve biodiversity, preserve ecosystem function and provide economic revenue from harvested timber. There are many different forms and compositions in which VRH is applied in forest ecosystems. In this study, the impacts of four different VRH treatments on transpiration were evaluated in an 83-year-old red pine (Pinus
Pinus resinosa) plantation forest in the Great Lakes region in Canada. These VRH treatments included 55% aggregated crown retention (55A), 55% dispersed crown retention (55D), 33% aggregated crown retention (33A), 33% dispersed crown retention (33D) and unharvested control (CN) plot. These VRH treatments were implemented in 1-ha plots in the winter of 2014, while sap flow measurements were conducted from 2018 to 2020. Results
Study results showed that tree-level transpiration was highest among trees in the 55D treatment, followed by 33D, 55A, 33A and CN plots. We found that photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) and vapor pressure deficit (VPD) were major controls or drivers of transpiration in all VRH treatments. Our study suggests that dispersed or distributed retention of 55% basal area (55D) is the ideal forest management technique to enhance transpiration and forest growth.
This study will help researchers, forest managers and decision-makers to improve their understanding of water cycling in forest ecosystem and adopt the best forest management regimes to enhance forest growth, health and resiliency to climate change.