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Microsite requirements for successful regeneration in lowland northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis L.) forests

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Allogio, Jeanette A.; Fraver, Shawn ; Kenefic, Laura S.; Wason, Jay W.; Berrill, John-Pascal

Year Published



Forest Ecology and Management


Throughout much of its range, northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis L., hereafter cedar) has experienced a bottleneck in recruitment: cedar seedlings are often abundant in these stands, particularly in lowland settings, yet cedar sapling densities are quite low, leading to concerns that cedar canopy trees are not being replaced. Several barriers to cedar recruitment have been suggested; however, findings from previous studies have been inconsistent with regard to limiting factors. Our objective was to characterize the microsite conditions associated with the establishment of cedar seedlings and saplings. We achieved this objective by mapping the location of seedlings, saplings, and overstory trees in 15 lowland cedar stands at five sites in Maine, USA, and examining the fine-scale site conditions (microtopographic features, canopy openness) in which cedar seedlings and saplings occurred. In particular, we recorded the occurrence of seedlings and saplings on microtopographic mounds, pits (small depressions), and flats (transitional features between mounds and pits). Substrate moisture content in these features decreased in the order pits > flats > mounds. Contingency-table results demonstrated that live cedar seedlings, and to a slightly lesser extent saplings, were found more often than expected by chance on mounds, and less often on flats and pits. Logistic regressions using status (live vs. dead) as the response variable generally supported these findings: dead seedlings were strongly associated with pits; however, the occurrence of live seedlings and saplings did not differ between flats and mounds. A companion planted-seedling experiment strongly supported these results, showing that after two growing seasons, survival was significantly lower in pits (12%) when compared to flats and mounds, which had similarly high levels of survival (62 and 80% respectively). Logistic regressions also showed live seedlings and saplings to be prevalent under more open canopy conditions (mean 19%, range 6 to 42% openness); though results from a planted-seedling experiment suggested that greater canopy openness (mean 32%, range 13 to 57%) was detrimental to survival. Regressions also showed that browsed seedlings were more likely to be found dead. These findings point to management prescriptions that maintain microtopographic diversity, create moderately open canopy conditions, and protect stands from browsing to promote viable cedar populations in these ecologically and economically important forests.


Browse pressure; Canopy openness; Eastern white cedar; Hemispherical photographs; Hummock and hollow; Microtopography


Allogio, Jeanette A.; Fraver, Shawn; Kenefic, Laura S.; Wason, Jay W.; Berrill, John-Pascal. 2021. Microsite requirements for successful regeneration in lowland northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis L.) forests. Forest Ecology and Management. 499(1): 119639. 11 p.

Last updated on: December 6, 2021