Representing site productivity in the basal area increment model for FVS-Ontario

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The utility of site index as a predictor variable in models for complex, mixed species stands is limited because the site index concept is not well suited for these stand types. Additionally, there is no standard protocol of estimating site index for uneven-aged mixed species stands, which is evident in permanent sample plot (PSP) and co-operative (COOP) data sets available from the Province of Ontario, Canada. Under such circumstances, an alternative to site index in a basal area increment model was explored, using a combination of climate and Forest Ecosystem Classification (FEC) variables from the Ontario boreal region. Among the four candidate climate variables chosen, mean annual temperature (MAT) explained the most variability in basal area increment for the four selected tree species - trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.), balsam fir (Abies balsamea (L.) Mill.), jack pine (Pinus banksiana Lamb.), and black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) B.S.P.). Our results indicated that a combination of the climate variable, MAT, and FEC explained a substantially higher proportion of variation in the basal area increment than site index alone. Thus, climate and FEC variables are superior substitutes in the basal area increment model even when error-free site index values are possible to obtain. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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Forest Ecology and Management