The impact of changing climate on tree growth and wood quality of Sitka spruce

Adams, Steven Henry (2014) The impact of changing climate on tree growth and wood quality of Sitka spruce. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The recent trend in climate has shown that UK temperatures are increasing, summers are getting drier and winters are getting wetter. It is thought that this trend is set to continue for the foreseeable future and that this will have an impact on the growth and quality of timber in the UK. Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr) is one of the most widely planted and important commercial tree species in the UK but our knowledge of tree growth and wood properties is based on tree growth in the climate of the past 40 – 80 years. The rotation time for Sitka spruce is approximately 40 years so trees planted now will mature in the 2050s, when the climate could be different from today leading to impacts on the quality and quantity of the wood being produced. This project aims to predict the effect that changes in climate will have on Sitka spruce, by looking not only at growth but also at different properties of the wood and their susceptibility to any change in climate. This information could then be used to help make decisions as to whether Sitka spruce is the best tree to be planting now, at any specific site in the UK, to obtain the best quality wood in the future.
The effect of seasonally changing weather on growth was measured at two sites by the use of LVDT point dendrometers to record changes in the radius of the tree stems. The data were compared to meteorological data collected from the site and from local weather stations, to determine how weather affected the growth of the trees. Data collection from the site at Griffin Forest near Aberfeldy was initiated in 2008 as part of a long term project at that site. Measurements taken during 2008 and 2009 were used as part of a previous PhD study and continued as part of the present study from 2010. The second site was newly established at Harwood Forest in Northumberland, northern England. At both sites the onset of growth at the beginning of the season was found to correspond to temperature >5°C. Deficit of soil moisture was found to decrease the growth rate during the peak growth period.
Radial density, radial growth and the radial profile of longitudinal stiffness were investigated by analysing increment core samples taken from sites covering the full latitudinal range that Sitka spruce grows in Great Britain, with the aim of quantifying the effect of site factors such as latitude, longitude, initial spacing and elevation. The cores were measured from density and ring width using an ITRAX x-ray densitometer and analysed using Windendro software. Stiffness was investigated using acoustic velocity measurements taken directly on the increment cores using an ultrasonic scanner, modified to measure cores.
A wide range of published radial growth models and a smaller number of radial density models were explored to see which were able to describe the data and compared to simpler linear segmented models. The sample population was found to be highly variable and the ability of the models to predict ring width or density from ring number alone was limited. Improved prediction of density was possible when ring width was included along with ring number as a predictor. The linear segmented models were found to be able to predict growth and density from ring number alone and this provides a useful and powerful tool. In practice ring width may not always be available and so there is a need for models which can predict density from ring number alone. Ring width was found to be negatively correlated with density, although the nature of the relationship was different between juvenile and mature wood.
Most of the variation in both density and growth was between trees at the same site. Initial spacing was found to be the only significant effect on growth and then only by having a positive effect on the growth rate of the juvenile wood, which had a knock on effect on the size of the trees at the end of the juvenile phase. Both spacing and latitude were found to have significant effects on the mean density of the juvenile wood with spacing having a negative effect and latitude a positive effect. In the mature wood, cambial age was found to be the only significant effect on radial density.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Sitka, climate change, wood growth, cambial age, radial density
Subjects: S Agriculture > SD Forestry
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Chemistry
Supervisor's Name: Jarvis, Dr. Michael C.
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Steven Adams
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-5121
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2014 12:29
Last Modified: 30 Apr 2014 12:32

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