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    We evaluated effects of belowground competition on morphology of naturally established coast Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii (Mirb.) Franco) saplings in 60- to 80-year-old thinned Douglas-fir stands in southwestern Washington. We separately quantified belowground competition from overstory and understory sources using trenching and understory removal. In this light-limited environment of 26 ± 16 percent (std. dev.) full sunlight, 2-year exclusion of tree root competition by trenching increased sapling stem biomass by 18 percent, total aboveground biomass by 21 percent, number of interwhorl buds by 68 percent, total foliar biomass by 33 percent, and foliar biomass on branch components over 4 years old by 143 percent. Belowground competition did not influence shoot:root ratio or foliar efficiency (i.e., stem growth per unit foliage biomass). Sapling needle size, specific leaf area, and internodal distance also were not affected by belowground competition; these variables were apparently a function of the low-light environment. The principal source of belowground competition was roots of overstory trees; effects of belowground competition from understory vegetation were minor. Thus, under a partial overstory, morphology of Douglas-fir regeneralion was influenced by both belowground and aboveground competition from overstory trees. In this environment, understory vegetation control would not likely influence belowground competition to an extent that would affect sapling morphology.

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    Devine, Warren D.; Harrington, Timothy B. 2009. Belowground competition from overstory trees influences Douglas-fir sapling morphology in thinned stands. New Forests. 37: 137-153


    Douglas-fir, competition, morphology, understory, regeneration

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