Leaf Area Index in Closed Canopies: An indicator of site quality
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Forestry Science
This study examined leaf area index (LAI) and relationships with corresponding tree growth, climate and soil characteristics across New Zealand forest plantations. The aim of this study was to determine if quick measures of projected leaf area across environmental gradients of New Zealand were an accurate indicator of site quality. Projected leaf areas of Pinus radiata D Don and Cupressus lusitanica Mills seedlings were measured using a Li-Cor LAI-2000 plant canopy analyser at 22 locations representing the soil and climatic diversity across New Zealand plantation forests. Seedlings planted at 40 000 stems per hectare were used to test treatment effects of fertiliser, site disturbance and species over a 4 year period. It was hypothesised that collected climate and soil information would explain differences in LAI development patterns across sites as the canopies approached site and seasonal maxima. Averaged across sites Cupressus lusitanica 7.28 (± 2.59 Std.) m2 m-2 had significantly (p = 0.0094) greater projected LAIs than Pinus radiata 6.47 (± 2.29) m2m-2. Maximum site LAI (LAImax) varied from 2.9 to 11.8 m2 m-2 for Pinus radiata and from 3.1 to 12.6 m2 m-2 for Cupressus lusitanica. LAImax of both species was significantly and positively correlated with vapour pressure deficit, soil carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous and CEC, but negatively with solar radiation, temperature and soil bulk density. A seasonal model of LAI across sites illustrated an 8.5% fluctuation in LAI of established canopies over the course of a year. Despite considerable variation in climate and soil characteristics across sites the combined effects of LAI at harvest and temperature were significantly correlated with site productivity (r2 = 0.84 and 0.76 for Pinus radiata and Cupressus lusitanica respectively). A national model of LAImax (r2 = 0.96) was proposed for Pinus radiata across climate and soil environments and the significance of LAImax as a component of site quality monitoring tools is discussed.