Thinning treatments reduce severity of foliar pathogens in eastern white pine


The foliar fungal pathogens associated with the disease complex known as White Pine Needle Damage (WPND) are causing widespread defoliation of eastern white pine (Pinus strobus L.) in the northeastern United States and Canada. Presently, there are no specific management recommendations for addressing declining stand health relating to WPND induced defoliations. This study aims to test the effects of thinning at two different residual stocking densities (14 and 25m2 ha−1) on mitigating the negative impacts of WPND within infected stands. To quantify the impacts of WPND on individual tree health, we generated a composite health index score using response variables measured in the field and weighted according to their association with observations of WPND severity. Post-thinning changes in disease severity were used to evaluate the effectiveness of stand thinning to reduce pathogen pressure and promote overall tree vigor. Results show that thinning had a rapid positive effect on overall tree health, with no significant difference between thinning treatment levels in the first two years following tree removal. Severity of WPND was reduced by 35% in low-density residual thinnings in the second year of the study. Our findings suggest that thinning as a silvicultural tool to reduce stocking densities within infected stands can effectively promote overall tree health and maintaining proper stocking densities is recommended for stands at risk of infection.


Natural Resources and the Environment

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Forest Ecology and Management



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