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International Journal of Forestry Research
Volume 2012, Article ID 193975, 7 pages
Research Article

Inconsistent Growth Response to Fertilization and Thinning of Lodgepole Pine in the Rocky Mountain Foothills Is Linked to Site Index

1Alberta School of Forest Science and Management, Faculty of Agricultural Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2H1
2Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Northern Forestry Centre, 5320 122 Street, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6H 3S5

Received 20 July 2012; Accepted 13 October 2012

Academic Editor: John Sessions

Copyright © 2012 Bradley D. Pinno et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Fertilization of conifers often results in highly variable growth responses across sites which are difficult to predict. The goal of this study was to predict the growth response of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia) crop trees to thinning and fertilization using basic site and foliar characteristics. Fifteen harvest-origin stands along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains of Alberta were subjected to six treatments including two levels of thinning (thinning to 2500 stems per hectare and a control) and three types of fertilization (nitrogen-only fertilization, complete fertilization including nitrogen with added P, K, S, Mg, and B, and no fertilization). After three growing seasons, the growth response and foliar status of the crop trees were examined and this response was related to site and foliar characteristics. There was a small and highly variable additive response to fertilization and thinning; diameter growth of crop trees increased relative to the controls an average of 0.3 cm with thinning, 0.3 cm with either N-only or complete fertilization and 0.6 cm when thinned and fertilized. The increase in diameter growth with thinning and nitrogen-only fertilization was positively related to site index but not to any other site factors or pretreatment foliar variables such as nutrient concentrations, ratios, or thresholds.