Wind damage impacts on Eucalyptus species performance in South Africa


Commercial forestry plantations in South Africa play an important role in the economy of the country, contributing 1.2% towards the gross domestic product, as well as with job creation in rural communities. Currently plantation forests cover 1% (1.2 million hectares) of the South African land surface, of which ±75 000 hectares (±43 000 hectares to Eucalyptus species) are re-established each year. Different timber companies afforest areas with different species to satisfy specific management objectives, with the two main objectives being for either the production of saw-timber or pulpwood. Species of the Eucalyptus genera are preferred as they are fast growing and have desirable wood and pulping properties. However, their productive potential can be negatively impacted by numerous abiotic and biotic risk factors. Of the various risk factors that forest stands are exposed to, wind and wind-related tree damage has received very little attention, both nationally and internationally. Wind-related tree damage may result in wind-throw (uprooting or stem breakage), or trees that tilt (lean off vertical). Trees that are tilting can recover to an upright position, but are likely to retain some level of stem sinuosity or butt-sweep. Although strong winds increase the risk of tree damage, a number of other factors can also act to predispose trees to wind-related damage. These include choice of planting stock (genotype and type of plant stock), planting practices (including soil cultivation), site factors (wind exposure, rainfall, soil texture and soil fertility) or excessive weed competition. Most of the literature dealing with wind-related tree damage has focused on trees growing in natural forests, whereas trees in natural forests differ from forest grown plantation trees in terms of above- and below-ground morphological differences, as well as the stability factors of the trees. There is a need to not only understand the impacts of severe (catastrophic) wind events on mature trees, but also to test management strategies that prevent, or minimize damage prior to any severe wind events. Two existing eucalypt trials were used to provide information on the influence of selected re-establishment silvicultural practices on short-term pulpwood and long-term saw-timber survival, growth and uniformity when influenced by catastrophic wind events, within South Africa

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