Although significant advances have been made in modelling the effects of silviculture on wood properties, few models have been calibrated using data from long-term stand density or respacing experiments. In this study we examined the effects of early respacing on the density and microfibril angle (MfA) of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis [Bong.] Carr.) wood using samples taken from a fully-replicated 57-year-old trial located in Northern Ireland, which had been thinned at age 11 years. Using a mixed-effects modelling approach, radial profiles of density and MfA from four different respacing treatments (1.83 m × 3.66 m, 3.66 m × 3.66 m, 3.66 m × 5.49 m and 5.49 m × 5.49 m) were compared with those of timber from an unthinned control (1.83 m × 1.83 m). After accounting for radial position and ring width, we found significant differences in both density and MfA between respacing treatments. Mean predicted values of wood density for rings 40-50 were 400 and 494 kg m -3 for the widest respacing treatment and the unthinned control, respectively, and fell between these two extremes for the other respacing treatments. Predicted latewood proportions in ring 50 were 12 and 22 per cent, for the same respacing treatments, respectively. There was some evidence of an age-related decline in wood density in the two narrowest respacing treatments. While there was a significant effect of respacing on MfA variation, the trends between respacing treatments were less apparent. Overall, these results indicate that the timing of respacing treatments is an important consideration in Sitka spruce management; early and severe respacing should be avoided to avoid deleterious effects on wood density and MfA.
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