Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportunities

Forums discussing individual tree species, tree families across their range, and tree identification questions & guides.

Moderators: edfrank, dbhguru

#1)  Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportunities

Postby gnmcmartin » Sat Nov 01, 2014 12:42 pm

Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportunities.

  A number of years ago I participated in a discussion of white pine growth rates, including the possibility of an eastern white pine reaching the height of 250 feet, and did the same more recently in the topic I posted about the old photo, which turned out not to be of eastern white pines, but western white pines or sugar pines.

  But I have new information and new ideas, so I want to update what I have been saying, and suggest the usefulness of some serious research.

  Some of what I said before was based on the discussion of the growth rates of older white pines in the original version of the Silvics Manual, published by the USDA Forest Service in 1965.  There, it was stated that by age 100 the growth rate of white pines declines to about 5 inches, and down to 2 to 3 inches by age 165.

  However, the new edition of the Silvics Manual, published in 1990, and now available on-line, has deleted that information.  I have tried to talk to the authors of the revised version, to ask about the reason for the deletions, but one of them has died, and the other retired. I would assume that the deletions were made because the information was not based on observations that meet the current standards for silvics research. The statement that by age 100 the growth rate drops to 5 inches per year is referenced to Frothingham, E. H. 1914; White Pine Under Forest Management.  And the growth rate of 2 to 3 inches per year referenced a  USDA Forestry Bulletin, by Spalding and Fernow, dated 1899. Also, these figures were developed by studying white pine trees in the Southern Appalachians, and the Southeast, respectively, and not trees in the Northeast.

  I have done an on-line search, and have been unable to find any more recent, or additional, studies of the growth of eastern white pine over 50 years old, and none focusing on white pine in MA or New England generally.

  But now I have the “unofficial” reports from NTS members of the growth rates of the very tall 160, plus or minus, year-old pines at MTSF. Some of the taller trees, including the Jake Swamp pine are growing at average annual rates of 7 inches or more--much, much faster than the 2 to 3 inches reported in the old version of the Silvics Manual, which I cited in my previous discussion of this topic.

  So, I see the need for new research on the topic, especially for trees growing in the Northeast generally, and MTSF specifically. I would like to see ENTS lead such a research effort, possibly, maybe preferably, with the participation of forest research people with expertise in designing such research, and who could help present the research in a form what would make it publishable in a leading research journal.  I see the topic, depending on what research shows, worthy of a position as a lead article in The Society of American Foresters “flagship” journal, The Journal of Forestry.  Or, at least, in Forest Science.  And perhaps an article could also be prepared, based on what our research uncovers, for The Northern Journal of Applied Forestry. These journals get good circulation among professional foresters and forest research scientists. I was an “adjunct” member of SAF and a subscriber to these journals for over 30 years.

  If we could participate in research of this kind, and get it prominently published, it would not only increase the “profile” of our organization, but also improve the forestry world’s understanding of the “vitality” of old growth white pine, and that could have important effects on the management or preservation old growth white pine forests.

  All this has me very excited, and my head is full of just what research could be done, and how.  In fact, I could see three or four major research articles growing out of this.

  --Gaines
User avatar
gnmcmartin
 
Posts: 421
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2010 8:16 pm
Location: Winchester, VA
Has Liked: 12 times
Has Been Liked: 77 times
Print view this post

#2)  Re: Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportuniti

Postby dbhguru » Sat Nov 01, 2014 8:54 pm

Gaines,

  I just got back from Ohio and will be communicating with you on this further. I hope to get up to Mohawk in the next few days and do some serious measuring to set the stage for what can be done on a wider scale. As for now, I'm hitting the hay. Long drive today.

  Oh yes, keep on the calendar the idea of an old growth conference in south central Ohio in 2016 in honor of Dr. E. Lucy Braun. More on this to come. Our important contacts in Ohio are growing by leaps and bounds.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder and Executive Director
Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
User avatar
dbhguru
 
Posts: 4064
Joined: Mon Mar 08, 2010 10:34 pm
Location: Florence, Massachusetts
Has Liked: 4 times
Has Been Liked: 1087 times
Print view this post

#3)  Re: Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportuniti

Postby gnmcmartin » Sun Nov 02, 2014 2:00 pm

Folks:

  Bob and I have begun to share ideas in a very preliminary way, and I have been trying to make some contacts with forest research scientists, as has Bob. I have a few "leads," but no firm commitments of participation so far. I posted this topic to make sure than everyone who has some ideas can share them here.

  One thought I have is that the trees at MTSF may well be in no way unusual, except in their being a good stand of eastern white pines about 160 years old on some good to very good forest soils. Based on what I have been able to find out about the growth rates of white pines, even before I learned about the very good continued growth of those at MTSF, is that virtually any stand of eastern white pine of a fairly good genetic strain, growing on a "class II" forest soil, should produce trees 150 feet tall, or taller, in 160 years.

  A "class II" forest soil, is a "very good" soil, which for comparison purposes, would produce growth of red oak in a forest setting of 75 to 85 feet.  Generally such soils should produce growth of eastern white pine of 90 feet or more in 50 years. Class I forest soils are most commonly bottomland soils, many of which are subject to flooding and not especially suitable for white pine or red oak.  There are a few upland class I forest soils, but they are, in most areas, very rare.  Here in northern VA they would occupy far less than 1% of soil area. These could well produce eastern white pines over 100 feet tall in 50 years.  I don't anticipate that any of the soils at MTSF are class I upland soils,  except, perhaps, for small isolated areas, but I can't be sure.

  In any case, what I am getting at, maybe taking far too long a path, involves two things.  First, any findings we can develop by studying the growth of the MTSF pines would have applicability to a broad range of white pine forests, and therefore of wide interest. I don't believe we would be researching a "special case."

  Second, one question I would have, and one that maybe some of you could help me with, is this:  how rare are white pine stands 160 years old?  Does anyone know of others?  Where?  And, could any of these be on class II forest soils?

  Generally, natural white pine reproduction occurs most readily on lighter textured, fairly well-drained soils.  These tend to produce 50-year growth of white pine of 70 or 80 feet. Natural white pine reproduction is not very common on the richer soils with a higher clay content--on these soils competition from tall grasses, weeds, and hardwood saplings commonly smother white pine seedlings before they can get a good start. In the times before European settlement, fires in some situations could enable successful reproduction on such soils.

  In New England, after many of the less productive farms were abandoned due to more cost effective production on richer Midwestern farms, "old field pine" stands grew up.  Some of these were probably on what were originally class II forest soils, but at the time these fields were abandoned, most had a depletion of nutrients, especially in the upper layers of the soil, and that enabled white pine to compete successfully. Some of these pine stands were quite fine, and the soils had time to recover somewhat,. But most of these stands, if not almost all, have been cut. Many subsequent stands of white pine were planted during the CCC years.

  One "wild card" is superior genetic strains, and an occasional "super tree"--a pine of superior growth. Some strains from North Carolina are well known for performing extremely well further north, at least into VA, MD, WV, and PA.  There is such a stand not far from Parsons, WV, and it is obvious to anyone that these trees are "different."

  --Gaines
User avatar
gnmcmartin
 
Posts: 421
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2010 8:16 pm
Location: Winchester, VA
Has Liked: 12 times
Has Been Liked: 77 times
Print view this post

#4)  Re: Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportuniti

Postby Will Blozan » Sun Nov 02, 2014 5:30 pm

Gaines,

Interesting idea and one we NTS could really do an excellent job documenting. FYI there is a second-growth stand of white pine in the Smokies that is now 130-135 years old (based on core samples). It has dozens of trees over 150', a dozen or so over 160', a handful over 170' and one at 183' so far. That was as of 2008 so more growth has happened I'm sure.

Nice to see you back in action on the BBS!

Will
User avatar
Will Blozan
 
Posts: 1152
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 8:13 pm
Location: North Carolina
Has Liked: 1558 times
Has Been Liked: 440 times
Print view this post

#5)  Re: Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportuniti

Postby gnmcmartin » Sun Nov 02, 2014 8:28 pm

Will:

  The heights of the trees on the site you document suggest a 50 year growth of something like 110 feet, or just a bit more, which may be about the top for any white pine site. I would love to see those trees, and learn more about them and the site.  I know we can't include everything in whatever studies we might wish to do, but I think you have something there that we should take a careful look at. I would be very interested in their current growth rate.

  Are there any red oak trees growing on this site, or very near on a site of similar quality?  Any Tuliptrees? A comparison of their growth with the white pine would be interesting to me.

  I think we should also look at some sites where the heights of white pine at 160 years, plus or minus, is both greater, and less that that at MTSF, and  see what the current growth rates are.  The value of whatever research we do on growth rates at ages somewhere near 160 years will be much increased if it can include some sites where the total height is both greater, and less, than that that of the tallest trees at MTSF.

  Is this site in the National Park, or is it on private land, and in danger of being cut?

  --Gaines
User avatar
gnmcmartin
 
Posts: 421
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2010 8:16 pm
Location: Winchester, VA
Has Liked: 12 times
Has Been Liked: 77 times
Print view this post

#6)  Re: Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportuniti

Postby Will Blozan » Sun Nov 02, 2014 8:37 pm

Gaines,

The site is in the Smokies so will not be cut. Don't recall red oak but tuliptree is close to 160' in the stand. However, this site is small potatoes compared to a site in GA that has 180'+ trees and probably less than 100 years. Annual internodes on fallen trees reach ~ 54". I think without a doubt, GA is the anchor point for superlatively fast white pine growth.

http://www.ents-bbs.org/viewtopic.php?f=73&t=1878

Will
User avatar
Will Blozan
 
Posts: 1152
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 8:13 pm
Location: North Carolina
Has Liked: 1558 times
Has Been Liked: 440 times
Print view this post

#7)  Re: Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportuniti

Postby gnmcmartin » Mon Nov 03, 2014 8:40 am

Will:

  What is the risk that this site in GA will be cut any time soon?

  Would it be possible to count and measure the internodes to determine age and growth rates? White pine often retains its branches for a considerable period after they die, and branch scars remain visible, even if only faintly so, for a considerable period after they "self-prune." If one couldn't see the scars near the base, perhaps it would not be too high up where they would start to be visible.  If one could identify and measure the internodes, one could develop growth curves of very, very good accuracy.

  Could you get permission to climb a few trees? I think establishing growth curves for these trees would be extremely interesting. I would think data from as few as 5 trees would be very good, but I am not a forest statistician.

  Are there any other comparable sites?

  As an aside, it is often assumed that when planting in any given area, seed from local sources will perform best.  But this is often not the case, as with the NC strains of white pine I mentioned previously. One reason for this is sometimes the source of re-population of a species in a given area after they have been wiped out. So called "local strains" are not always strictly local in their development.  The best case I know of is with Norway spruce in Scandinavia. It has been some time since I had a discussion about this with a man from Europe--his name escapes me now--who researched such things, so I may be making a small mistake in some detail here.  But when the glaciers advanced southward in Europe, they wiped out the Norway spruce over much of its range.  When the glaciers retreated, Norway spruce moved back. In Scandinavia, Norway spruce moved in from two directions, the south, and the east.  The trees that moved into Finland were of a completely different strain than those that populated Norway, and are much, much slower growing.  So, anyone planting Norway spruce in Finland, should avoid "local" strains if they want fast growing trees.  The adaptation of the trees from Norway in Finland is not a problem--they are fully hardy.

  I would wonder if something similar has happened with white pine in the US.  If one could find a few good genetic "markers," one could study their distribution, and perhaps discover something about the migrations of different populations back into the current white pine range in the US. This might explain some of the "anomalies" of performance of white pines from various provenances.

  One thing some people don't know, is that there are populations of white pine at higher elevations in Southern Mexico and Guatemala. Our current white pines may have migrated back north from such populations. This could be studied. Then there might be evidence about the "ancestry" of these GA white pines.

  --Gaines
User avatar
gnmcmartin
 
Posts: 421
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2010 8:16 pm
Location: Winchester, VA
Has Liked: 12 times
Has Been Liked: 77 times
Print view this post

#8)  Re: Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportuniti

Postby dbhguru » Mon Nov 03, 2014 1:21 pm

Gaines,

  The challenge, as I see it, is to gather the right data for further analysis, given all the possibilities. The best I can do is measure what I can measure with confidence. At present, this will be new growth at the top of pines in known age classes. Exact ages of a few pines will be known, but most will be in a class. This may be a kind of seeding data dataset to stimulate further interest.

  Measurements from aloft could involve TCI in the first large scale cooperative study involving NTS, TCI, and some academic researchers. Remember that climbing trees is what TCI does and they have members all over the East. I should think that a few would be interested in gathering data for a white pine study. Instructing them on what to measure and how to go about it would be something Will would have to weigh in on.

  While the Mohawk pines provide an exemplary population to study, there are plenty of other stands in New England that could be studied as well. For example, there are plenty of pines in the stream corridor behind our house that could be studied. My current belief is that they are around 100 years old. Maybe a little less. There are many between 120 and 130 feet in height and 18 or 19 above 130. A single pine will reach 140 next year. However, the latest growth can be determined for many.

  I actually don't think the Mohawk pines would have been exceptional in a historical context. They are today mainly because the prevailing idea is that white pine stands get up to about 100 years of age and fall apart. They do self-thin, but plenty survive to become the huge trees we see in places like Mohawk.

  As promised, I'll seen get to cracking and measure this past year's growth. Presently, I have to work on a problem for American Forests. The subscripted variables in our 80+ page measuring guidebook are causing problems in translations from WORD to publishing software being used by AF. The subscripts and exponents are lost. Gotta get this resolved soon.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder and Executive Director
Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest

For this message the author dbhguru has received Likes :
pattyjenkins1
User avatar
dbhguru
 
Posts: 4064
Joined: Mon Mar 08, 2010 10:34 pm
Location: Florence, Massachusetts
Has Liked: 4 times
Has Been Liked: 1087 times
Print view this post

#9)  Re: Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportuniti

Postby gnmcmartin » Mon Nov 03, 2014 10:27 pm

Bob:

  Measuring the length of the growth shoot each year is a good idea, but also, measuring total height growth over a period of 10 years or so, might be necessary.  The latter may be all that is needed, and would reduce the measuring task tremendously,  Also, from my observations of my own white pines, a given year's growth shoot may not, ultimately, be on what turns out to be the leader, if that shoot is broken, and some other shoot takes over the leader position, and maintains it.  Adding up the growth of each year's "top" shoot may not produce a measurement of the cumulative height growth over a given period. I think we need to be very cautious. We could work very hard, and collect a lot of data, but if other researchers in the field can find objections to, or find limitations in the measurements we have taken, we will not get the acceptance for our work that we might wish. Of course, for some trees we could do more than one kind of measurement, and compare. I would want to defer to someone with experience who has analyzed this issue.

  But, as you suggest, the measurement of top shoots on trees of known ages can be "seeding" data to create further interest.  I will update you on the contacts I have made, and what I might be able to make, if you give me a go-ahead. I am hopeful about the interest we might find.

  Anyway, for a "final dataset," if it were practical, I would like to see the trees climbed, and measurements of the top taken, nodes counted, if possible, and/or cores taken and from the point of the core, the top measured.  The latter would give us perfect, and I think, unassailable data, without taking a period of years. The former method--that of counting internodes, and then taking a measurement to the top, might involve an error of misidentifying a node or a missing internode, if a leader was broken, and a side branch could not provide a reliable "check."  

  But I don't know if taking cores near the top of trees, even if with a special small "gauge" borer, If such exists, would be possible without damaging the tree. And it may sometimes miss the pith. I understand that one can make an accurate guess about what was missed when the pith is not hit, but the possibility of a mistake would compromise our data.

  Forgive me, I am just "brainstorming here. I have no definite knowledge of any of these data collection methods, and really no strong opinions.  All I want to see is that our data will have a basis that can't be seriously questioned. And, that it can be collected without excess time and effort. Climbing trees takes effort, but it would not require measurements over an extended period of time. We could "uncover" the data showing growth already accomplished. I would guess that we would need to measure and average the annual growth over a period of something like ten years, but I would defer to a statistician on that. When I examine on the ground, the broken tops of my own pines, I see gross variability in the annual growth, and would guess that it could take data from a number of years to "smooth that out."

  I would be interested in the thoughts of any interested member about any of these data collection ideas.

  Will:  about the GSMNP site and the 160 foot tuliptree there--the fact that the tuliptrees on the site are not nearly so exceptional as the white pines, leads me to believe that what we have, is indeed, a very superior strain of white pine, and not a very, very unusually productive/rich growing site.  I am sure the growing site is very fine, but I think the special factor here is the strain of white pine. Had you found some red oak there also, I could be a bit more confident. I use tuliptree and red oak to compare with the white pine, because if one of these species shows exceptional growth on an especially rich site, the others should also. There may be some important exceptions on some soils, but I don't know enough to be sure. But I do know that these three species don't always respond to top quality soils of different types in exactly parallel ways. On some very rich soils, the red oak will show, relatively, growth that is a bit more exceptional, and on others it will be the tuliptree. And so it so with the white pine relative to red oak and tuliptree.  Here, the outperformance of the white pine seems to me to be, relatively, extreme.

  The white pines on the GA site, are indeed, "mind blowing."

  --Gaines
User avatar
gnmcmartin
 
Posts: 421
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2010 8:16 pm
Location: Winchester, VA
Has Liked: 12 times
Has Been Liked: 77 times
Print view this post

#10)  Re: Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportuniti

Postby gnmcmartin » Fri Nov 07, 2014 3:01 pm

NTS:

Before this topic fades off the active list, I think I should add some final thoughts, and raise a question or two.

   Based on the numbers that have been mentioned in this topic so far, things don’t seem to add up to what I have been suggesting would be such an exciting research project. At this point, there is nothing conclusive, at least not in the overall data on the total heights of the eastern white pine trees at MTSF, to suggest that there is something going on with these pines that is very significantly different from prior observations of eastern white pine growth, including those cited in the older version of the Silvics Manual.  So, for the sake of debate, here are some numbers I have worked out.

  Starting with pines growing on a site index 90 site, which would be a class II forest soil, and which should be fairly common across MA,
after 50 years, we would have trees 90 feet tall.

  Assuming as the newer Silvics manual states, 20 feet in the next 20 years, at age 70, we would have a total height of 110. The current Silvics Manual states that the growth of eastern white pine trees is 20 feet from age 50 to 70, whether the site is rated at 70, 80 or 90.

  From here I have to do some interpolations, so bear with me.

  From age 50 to 70 the total height gain is 20 feet.  Assuming that during this period, the growth rate declines, I will make an assumption that the growth is 14 inches per year at the start, declining to 10 at the end, with the average being 1 foot.

  So, if at age 70 growth is 10 inches and declines to 5 inches at age 100, as stated in the old Silvics Manual, we get 18.75 feet during this period. This assumes that the growth rate declines in a steady fashion, so the average during these 30 years is 7.5 inches per year. So at age 100, the tree is 128.5 feet tall.

  For the next 60 years, if we start at 5” per year and decline to 3” at age 160 (as stated in the older version of the Silvics Manual), averaging 4” per year, we get an additional 20 feet, giving total at age 160 of 148.5 feet.

  If the site were a bit better, say 95 feet, then we would have 152.5, and if it were to be 100, we would have 157.5.

  The Jake Swamp pine is 172 feet tall, but this could be an individual with a superior growth rate--a “super tree,” topping the average of the 120 150 foot plus trees at MTSF by 10 feet or so. Yes, impressive, but nothing that would call for a drastic revision of ideas about the growth of white pine trees.  Yes, the average of the 120 150 foot plus white pines is somewhat greater than the old assumptions would suggest, at least for a tree on a site rated at 90 feet, but not dramatically so. And for a site rated at 100, the old assumptions match up very well with the observations at MTSF.

   Consider this: if we would add just one inch per year from age 100 to 160, we would have an additional 5 feet, making the 160 year old tree on a site rated at 90 feet, 153.5. And if the site were to be index 100, maybe not very unusual in MA, we would have a 163.5 foot tree.

  Any forest research scientist looking at the growth of the white pines at MTSF would say, “nice growth,” but would not see any clear need for further research. The trees at MTSF are what would be predicted, or very close to it, based on the current, and the previously published assumptions.

  But, we have reports from NTS members, using very accurate equipment, and sophisticated know-how, of these trees growing at .8 feet per year, or better, at age 160.

  If I start with site index 90, and remove the numbers I have used after age 100, and assume a steady growth rate of .8 foot per year for the next 60 years, with no decline (meaning the trees were not growing any faster when they were 60 years younger), we would have 20 additional feet, making a typical 160 year old tree at MTSF on a site rated at 90, with a dominant crown position, 168.5 feet tall.  And on a site rated at 100, the height would be 178.5.

  Of course, if a white pine at age 160 is growing at .8 feet per year, we need to assume that this .8 figure has declined from something  significantly faster at age 100 in some "regular" kind of progression. So we would need to assume a height significantly greater than the numbers above. If we took into account the basic fact that a tree‘s growth declines with age, and must have been growing significantly faster at ages 100, 120 and so on, we might postulate a for a tree growing at .8 feet per year at age 160, an average height of over 190 feet for those with a dominant crown position, with any exceptional tree, such as the Jake Swamp pine, over 200 feet.

  Yes, I am playing “devil’s advocate” here, but the analysis I have given  is what I think we might get from a research forester looking objectively at the numbers, and he would not want to invest his time in such a research project.

  Now here is what could make the numbers work out so that we would have something “revolutionary” to say about the growth rates of  “older” white pines.  First, maybe the site index is 80 or lower.  That would be a just a class III forest soil, not a class II, which is what I have been assuming. But even if the site is a class III soil, the growth could be just 10 feet less, and the MTSF pines would still not be very far above what published assumptions would indicate. But it would “sweeten” the deal a bit.

   The other factor that could change this picture, and suggest that there is something very interesting gong on, would be if the trees are significantly younger than 160 years. If they would be 130, then that would adjust the numbers by another 10 feet. Then, maybe, there would be something sweet enough to attract some general interest.

  In any case, it seems to me that we could have a conflict between the current height of the 160 year-old white pines at MTSF, and the observations of their current growth of .8 feet per year.

  Before we plunge into a formal research effort here that we think will show dramatically greater growth of older white pines than has been very widely assumed, maybe we need to do some double checking, and/or develop a better analysis than what I have presented here.

  Does my analysis make sense?  Have I missed something?

  --Gaines
User avatar
gnmcmartin
 
Posts: 421
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2010 8:16 pm
Location: Winchester, VA
Has Liked: 12 times
Has Been Liked: 77 times
Print view this post

Next

Return to Tree Species, Families and Identification

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest