Current issue: 54(5)
Under compilation: 55(1)
Scarification is a mechanical site preparation technique designed to create microsites that will favor the growth of planted tree seedlings after clearcutting. However, the positive growth response of black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) Britton, Sterns & Poggenb.) to scarification varies across different sites. We hypothesized that this was due to different forms of physiological stress induced by different climates or by the severity of competition from ericaceous shrubs. We thus compared the effects of scarification on black spruce needle gas exchange and other foliar properties, as well as on indices of soil water and nitrogen availability, in relatively warm-dry (Abitibi) vs. cool-humid (Côte-Nord) climates in the province of Québec (Canada). We found a similar positive effect of scarification on tree height in Abitibi and Côte-Nord. Scarification reduced soil moisture in both climatic regions, but increased soil N mineralization in Côte-Nord only. Accordingly, scarification increased the instantaneous water use efficiency in both climate regions, but decreased photosynthetic N use efficiency in Côte-Nord only. In both regions, we found a positive relationship between foliar δ18O and δ13C on scarified plots, providing further evidence that increased growth due to scarification depends on a decrease in stomatal conductance. We conclude that scarification increases total evapotranspiration of trees evenly across the east-to-west moisture gradient in the province of Québec, but also improves long-term soil nutritional quality in a cooler-humid climate.