The Hardwood Silviculture Cooperative (HSC) conducts research on the silviculture of red alder (Alnus rubra) and mixes of alder and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) in the Pacific Northwest. The goal is to improve the management and production of red alder. Towards this goal, the HSC has developed the Red Alder Stand Management Study which evaluates management regimes under varied site qualities and conditions, as well as varied management objectives. The HSC came together in 1988 as a combination of industry and government agency members, each with its own reasons for pursuing red alder management, be it growing alder for high-quality saw logs or managing red alder as a component of biodiversity. What members have in common is that they all want to grow red alder to meet their specific objectives.HSC Priorities:
The HSC's highest priority is to understand the response of red alder to spacing in plantations. To accomplish this, the Cooperative has installed 26 variable density plantations in the Pacific Northwest from Coos Bay, Oregon to Campbell River, B.C. The plantation distribution covers a wide range of geographic conditions and site qualities. At each site, cooperators planted large blocks at densities of 247, 618, 1297 and 2965 trees per hectare (100, 250, 525, and 1200 trees per acre). Each block is subdivided into several treatments covering a range of thinning and pruning options. In addition to the 26 variable-density plantations, the Cooperative has related studies in four naturally regenerated stands and seven planted mixed alder/Douglas-fir stands. Naturally regenerated stands up to 15 years old and 2 to 5 hectares in size were sought as a means of short reducing some of the growing time lag before meaningful thinning results could be obtained from the plantations. The seven mixed plantations of alder and Douglas-fir are new plantations. They are located on ground designated as Douglas-fir site class III or below. These low site qualities are often a result of nitrogen deficient soils. Each site is planted at 741 trees per hectare (300 trees per acre) with four proportions of the two species. The site layout is designed to look at the interactions between the two species. We expect to find that in low proportions, alder can benefit the Douglas-fir when soil nitrogen levels are low. The challenge is to find the right balance between species to maintain a beneficial relationship. In the 10 years since the first plantation was established, we have learned a lot about seed zone transfer, seedling propagation, stocking guides, and identification of sites appropriate for red alder. Ultimately, we hope to understand density management effects on red alder growth and yield, and wood quality recovery. In 1998, we got our first real look at differences in growth between the densities with the report on 6th year results. The Cooperative's red alder stand management studies are designed and replicated on a scale rarely attempted in forestry. Over the next 20 years, we will harvest much from our investment. Our data set on growth of managed stands will make red alder one of the better understood forest trees of the Pacific Northwest.What value is gained by HSC membership?
The benefits of HSC membership, as with any Coop, are mainly through cooperative work that can establish more installations over a wider area while keeping individual member costs and workload at a minimum. For example, there are three HSC red alder stand management installations established and maintained by the Ministry of Forests (French Creek near Coombs, Lucky Creek near Ucluelet and Campbell River) but we have access to a database of 26 installations in the Pacific Northwest. Any results generated by the larger database will have wider implications for all HSC members. This is particularly true when it comes to plantation management, since managing alder is in its infancy, there are bound to be new things to learn. Also because of a longer history of utilization and management of red alder in Washington and Oregon, we generally have a good deal to learn from U.S. counterparts. Our first efforts in alder seed collection and stock production was guided by HSC members who had more experience in seed handling and nursery techniques. They advised us, for example, that direct seeding is unreliable in most cases because of patchy germination and that fall planting can result in stock flushing with consequent frost damage. There have been many instances of BC forest workers contacting their US colleagues for advice on red alder. Specifically we will be able to fine-tune our alder management regimes with a larger database so that we can: build growth and yield models that will be the basis of our guidelines for plantation density and time of entry for spacing, thinning and rotation length. revise species selection guidelines to match the ecological suitability of red alder to site conditions. Climate and soils are similar in the Pacific Northwest particularly between western Washington and southwestern B.C. This will not only yield the best sites for growing alder for sawlog production but because the HSC purposefully establishes some trials on poor sites and in harsher climates, it tests the ecological amplitude of alder. This will match alder to site but also use of alder planting for habitat and root rot areas. effectively monitor disease, insects and other damaging agents which could become more acute in managed plantations compared to natural stands. establish guidelines for mixedwood management. This will include density proportions, time of establishment and management regimes. The HSC is currently testing the interactions between Douglas-fir and alder in replacement series using 100/0, 89/11, 75/11 and 50/50 Douglas-fir/red alder mixtures.For Further Information
Further information can be found at the Hardwood silviculture Cooperative (HSC) website. The 2003 Annual Report details the progress of the Ministry of Forests Coast Region red alder installations. Details on the 2003 HSC meeting include the agenda, field trip 1 and field trip 2. Further information can be obtained from Paul Courtin or telephone:(250)-751-7120.
Additional information and district specific lists of project sites can also be obtained at the Research Branch Forest Dynamics web site. Research by the Forest Dynamics Group concentrates on factors which influence regeneration, survival, and growth of young forests.
Coast Region Research Group, BC Ministry of Forests
Comments to: Denis
Site maintained for BCFS Coast Region Research Group by Greg Brown