Careful logging around small merchantable stems (CLASS) is a partial cutting treatment that consists of the harvest of 70%–90% of the merchantable volume of an irregular coniferous stand. In this treatment, regeneration, saplings and small merchantable stems (DBH < 15 cm) are preserved and can continue to grow and develop into the dominant layer of the new stand. The aim of this project was to examine the effects of CLASS on the primary and secondary growth of branches, as well as on branch diameter in black spruce and balsam fir trees in the boreal forest of Quebec, Canada. Primary and secondary growth were measured on five branches per tree while branch diameter was analysed from 15 whorls distributed within the crown of the 48 black spruce and 48 balsam fir trees sampled. Branch primary and secondary growth significantly increased after CLASS in the lower part of the crown in both species, and both types of growth increased proportionally. These findings suggest that CLASS may delay crown recession as the lower branches tend to survive and grow for a longer period. However, although radial growth increased in the years post-CLASS, this did not significantly influence the final branch diameter and should not lead to lumber downgrade.
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