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Effects of site preparation in interior plateau clearcuts on the soil water regime and the water relations of conifer seedlings Fleming, Robert LeSueur


Site preparation effects on growing season soil water regimes were investigated on three clearcut, grass-dominated sites in the Interior Douglas-fir (IDFdk), Montane Spruce (MSxk) and Engelmann spruce-Subalpine fir (ESSFxc) Biogeoclimatic Subzones, near Kamloops, British Columbia. The response of newly planted Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco) and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta Dougl.) to these treatments was determined at the IDFdk site. Soil water regimes were measured in scalped, ripped and herbicide site preparation treatments and in an untreated control using a neutron moisture meter, a two-probe gamma-density gauge, tensiometers and thermocouple psychrometers. At the IDFdk, seedlings were spring planted in each of the treatments and control to determine whether microclimate modification by site preparation would improve seedling water relations, growth and survival during the first growing season. Root zone soil water content was most limited at the low-elevation site (IDFdk) and least limited at the high-elevation site (ESSFxc). The different site preparation treatments provided similar increases in root zone soil water content, profile water storage and drainage at each site. This resulted in substantial increases in soil water supply at the lowest two sites. Site preparation resulted in increased Douglas-fir and lodgepole pine stomatal conductance (gs), transpiration (E), leaf area, root egress, root collar basal area and dry matter production. Survival of both species was high in the control and in all site preparation treatments. Both species had similar seasonal patterns of gs and E in the control. In the site preparation treatments, lodgepole pine had greater gs, and by late summer, greater E than Douglas-fir. Although lodgepole pine had substantially higher twig xylem pressure potentials and lower soil-plant liquid flow resistances than Douglas-fir, both species appeared well adapted to survive drought. First growing season stomatal responses of both species to environmental conditions, including normalized vapor pressure deficit at seedling height (Ds/P), solar irradiance (Rs) and root zone extractable water (Φe), were similar when normalized against annual maximum conductance (gsmax ). A multiplicative model with non-linear least squares optimization (NLLS) of response functions to Rs, Ds/P and Φe provided a simple, reasonably accurate description of gs/gsmax for both species, and accounted for differences in gs between the control and ripped treatment. In most cases, the NLLS models developed for a given species and year resulted in relatively precise (R²>0.60) and unbiased estimates of gs /gsmax, and yielded estimates of mean daily stomatal conductance (Gs ) and total daily transpiration (T) within 20% of measured values, for the same species in other years.

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