Minor Thesis




Research Aim and objectives.


Literature Review..

1.1Eucalyptus forest in Australia.

1.2 Impact of thinning of forests.

1.3 Thinning and stand value.



Future Prospects.



Abstract on Thinning 

Thinning is a forest management strategy that is used to promote growth, manage the forest resources, and regulate the plantations. Eucalyptus plantations are abundant in Australia and occupy a large section of the overall landmass. The plant is present in more than 800 species in the country and occupies 77% of the total native forest area of the country with 35% of the total eucalypt forests lie in the Queensland with 20% in the Northern territory, and 32% in the leasehold land This document discusses the impact of thinning the Eucalyptus plantations in Australia by performing secondary research. Crucial data from the high-quality peer-reviewed researches have been collected and presented in this document to identify the significance of thinning on the plantations and also to underpin its effects. Thinning impacts the growth of individual plants as well as on the overall stand volume of the plantation.

Since the close spacing of the plants increases the inert plant competition for the resources, thinning assures that there is adequate plant spacing for the availability of the resources that enhance the individual plant volume and promote the cambial growth. The cambial growth ensures that there is an increased ration of the heartwood in the tree that can enhance the overall economic value of the sawlogs. Thinning can be done on various occasions and in multiple ways. But through this analysis, it has been deduced that the most suitable time to perform thinning in the eucalyptus plantations is at 3.2 years. Thinning in young stands has also been found to be more impactful and effective in increasing the diameter of the plan than in the old stands of the eucalyptus plantations because the tree growth is more in the young stages than in the older plants. This document also explores the future prospects of this analysis and underpins that by evidencing the results through primary research, the impact of thinning along with various other factors can be used to improve the standing volume of the Eucalyptus plantations in Australia.

Introduction to Thinning 

Thinning is defined as a pruning process where the selective plant parts, branches, roots, buds, etc. are removes to create more growing space for the plants to grow (Bai et al., 2017). Thinning treatments are considered as important forest management tools as they assist in reducing the competition and promotion of growth by enhancing the availability of resources. Thinning has been associated with observed differences in stand composition and structure and is often linked with forest productivity. Thinning has also been found to increase the average size of the trees and overall growth (Carsky, 2019). The overall growth and structure of these trees correspond to forest stand and is inclusive of the forest structure, age, class, distribution, quality, and spatial arrangement. Eucalyptus trees and forests are of essential value in Australia. It is the most common type of forest in the region that covers more than 101 million hectares of the total native forest area of Australia. This amounts to up to 77% of the total native forest area in the country. More than 800 species of Eucalyptus are grown in the region belonging to genera Angophora, Corymbia, and Eucalyptus (Government of Australia, 2018).

The tree is known to have originated in Australia and possesses oil-rich foliage. 35% of the Eucalypt forests of Australia are present in Queensland covering a vast range of 35 million hectares in the region. 20% of the forests lie in the Northern territory and cover 20 million hectares of the land in the region (Government of Australia, 2018). The most common type of Eucalypt in Australia is the river red gum or the Eucalyptus camaldulensis (Carsky, 2019). Thinning is often done in these forest areas to maintain their health. Forests' ecosystem grows in consideration of the availability of the resources to maintain its health. Adequate spacing and thinning aids in reducing overcrowding for suitable availability of the resources and to minimize the tree stress. Thinning has also been identified to maintain the vigor and overall stand value of the forests. It helps in the generation of open forest stands to improve the overall habitat and promote wildlife in the region (Hood et al., 2016). Thinning is also crucial as it can reduce fire hazards and enhance the value of the existing trees. This thesis aims to provide a concise discussion to assert the significance of forest thinning and to highlight how it impacts the stand value of the Eucalyptus plantations in Australia. This thesis will discuss the effects of thinning in association with the stand value of the plantations by the development of a concise methodology. This thesis will also throw light on the existing literature to highlight the essential information associated with thinning and stand value of Eucalyptus plantations in Australia. 

Research Aim and Objectives: Effects of Thinning

The aim of this research is to identify the effects of thinning on Eucalyptus tree plantations.

Rationale: Stand level analysis assumes that the forest stand is by in large uniform in its appearance and behavior. On the contrary, it has been studied that different tree models provide a more comprehensive analysis and establish that the stand value is significantly altered by the differences in tree size and the growth rates (Hood et al., 2016). Thinning is known to alter the tree growth and therefore impact the stand value which has formed the premise of this study. 

This aim will be fulfilled by achieving the following objectives:

  1. Critical analysis of the Eucalypt forest cover area and plantations in Australia
  2. Synthesis of literature to determine the impact of thinning of the stand value in the plantations
  3. Identification of key effects associated with thinning to underpin their impact on stand value

Methodology: Effects of Thinning

The structure of this thesis will follow a secondary research paradigm. For this analysis, relevant research papers that have collected information on how thinning impacts the stand value of the forests have been analyzed. Secondary research has been defined as an analytical approach that provides a comprehensive summary and collation of the existing research on the topic of concern. This provides data and information from the pre-conducted studies. A deductive analytical approach has been followed in this study (Kumar et al., 2019). Through the deductive reasoning where the known impact of thinning on the forest has been evaluated against the stand value of the trees. The literature that has been cited in this research has been included only from peer-reviewed articles that were published in the last ten years and the government websites to maintain the recency and relevance of the research (Ndalila et al., 2018).

Information from the credible sources has been included after their systematic analysis and effective screening. The articles that were used in this research were retrieved from credible data sources like “SCOPUS”, “Google scholar”, and government sources. The articles were searched using search strings “Impact of thinning”, “Thinning and stand value in the forest”, “Impact of thinning on forest”, “Effects of forest thinning”, “Eucalyptus stand value”, “Eucalyptus forest in Australia”, and “Stand value of Eucalyptus”. These search strings were used in association with Boolean operators to retrieve results. The total number of articles retrieved were n=256. Limiters were used to retrieve recent articles and only 10 years old. This narrowed down the search result to n=78. Further, only papers with complete information were selected limiting the available search results to n=52. These papers were then manually screened for their recency, relevance, and coherence for the topic and a total of 38 papers were therefore selected for this analysis.

Literature Review: Effects of Thinning

1.1 Eucalyptus Forest in Australia

The Australia’s State of Forest Report (2018) states that Eucalyptus forests are by far the most common forests in the Australia as they cover around 101 million hectares of the total land. This vast coverage corresponds to about 77% of the total forest land of the country. The Eucalypt forest distribution in the country has been illustrated in figure 1. 35% of the total eucalypt forests lie in the Queensland with 20% in the Northern territory, 32% in the leasehold land. The 32 million eucalyptus plantations are present on the private land and 18 million on the nature conservation reserves of the nation (Government of Australia, 2018)(Figure 2).

“Leasehold forest— Crown land held under leasehold title, and generally privately managed.

Multiple-use public forest— publicly owned state forest, timber reserves and other land, managed by state and territory government agencies for a range of forest values.

Nature conservation reserve— publicly owned lands managed by state and territory government agencies that are formally reserved for environmental, conservation and recreational purposes, including national parks, nature reserves, and state and territory recreation and conservation areas.

Other Crown land— Crown land reserved for a variety of purposes, including utilities, scientific research, education, stock routes, mining, use by the defence forces, and to protect water-supply catchments, with some areas used by Indigenous communities.

Private forest—land held under freehold title and private ownership, and usually privately managed.

Unresolved tenure—land where data are insufficient to determine land ownership status.”

The forests in the Australia have been divided into major subtypes depending on the form of the trees, tree height, and crown cover of the forest. 69% of the total Eucalypt forests of the non-mallee Eucalypt forests are woodland forests and 81% of the total forest cover is of medium height forests (Government of Australia, 2018). The common Eucalyptus species that are growing in Australia include the Blackbutt, Blue gum, and Blue mountain ash Eucalyptus trees (Forrester et al., 2013).

(b)Blue gum eucalyptus, and (c)Blue mountain ash eucalyptus

The Eucalyptus forests possess a great value in the Australian economy as they serve as the primary hardwood plant in the country and plays an integral role in the sawmilling industry. This makes Eucalyptus an essential plant in the Australian ecosystem and economy. Thinning has therefore been a prominent practice in the Eucalypt forests for greater yield and improved growth.

1.2 Impact of Thinning of Forests

Thinning is performed on trees to facilitate the growth and availability of the resources to the trees to determine the overall stand volume (Nogueira et al., 2015). Selective thinning is an integrated approach where the final trees are chosen in the young stand to perform thinning. A group selection thinning is another method where a cluster a selected group of trees is treated as an “individual” in a forest stand. Structural thinning can also be performed where finely structured stands are developed (Forrester, 2013). The impact of thinning has been evaluated by multiple research analysis where the effects of thinning have been contrasted with the stand parameters. Further, the effect of different thinning practices has also been critically evaluated for different forest types and plantations. The frequency of thinning in most of the cases is dependent on the height of the trees. Valencia et al. (2011) argue that the distribution of trees in the thinned subplots is more uniform and therefore corresponds to higher volume in contrast to the unthinned plantations.

Further, floristic abundance has been found to be greater in the trees that are thinned against the ones that have not. Therefore, it has been discussed that thinning in the Eucalyptus plantations in Australia can result in significant changes in the overall stand structure and volume (Medhurst et al., 2011). In thinning in Eucalyptus plantations in Australia, the number of trees should consequently decrease along with the stand development. In a traditional thinning process, the residual base area at which stand volume growth is reduced by 5 percent in contrast with the highest volume growth for any remnant basal area at the same time is regarded as the limit for the suitable stocking densities in consideration of the volume production (Forrester et al., 2013). By analysis of competition and plantation management, the growth of the individual trees and stand characteristics can be crucially determined. The inter tree competition in the forest impacts the tree diameter and the stand volume (Cassidy et al., 2012). Cassidy et al. (2012) also establish that thinning has been found to be of higher importance in the harvesting of trees with the greater diameter.

1.3 Thinning and Stand Value

According to Soares et al. (2017), thinning of the forest has been critically associated with the productivity of the forest. The variable parameters that govern the overall productivity and stand volume include the individual growth, availability of resources, and the proportion of trees in a defined area to avail of these resources. Thinning of the forest results in bringing changes in the stand structure through the removal of trees and thereby, improving resource availability and promoting growth. As discussed by Grigg et al. (2010), effects of thinning has been studied largely concerning the individual trees and therefore, it is crucial to identify their impact in the overall structure. McGavin et al. (2015) discussed that the forest stand structure can be quantified using mathematical expressions like the Gini coefficient that can help in the estimation of the plant size inequality. Further, Forrester et al. (2012) have also discussed that size inequality in the Eucalyptus trees increases over time and is more prominent in the denser, older and more productive forest stands.

Schütze (2014) argues that stand inequality is more prominent in the mixed species in the forests than in the pure lines. To analyze how the individual tree, contribute towards the stand growth, growth dominance of tress can be calculated (Qiu et al., 2013). Forrester et al. (2010) had deduced that younger stands have appositive growth dominance whereas mature stands depict a negative growth dominance. Thinning plays a crucial role in the determination of the growth dominance in the forest stands. Thinning can be done based on the needs of plantation and forests. Major types of thinning practices that are prevalent include low thinning and high thinning. In the low thinning of the forest stand, the suppressed trees from the forest are removed (McGacin et al., 2015). In contrast, in high thinning, the dominant and the codominant trees of the canopy are removed. Thinning, therefore, affects the overall stand volume by affecting the availability of the resources in the forest stand (Qiu et al., 2012).

Results: Effects of Thinning

This analysis reveals that thinning leads to a positive impact on the overall growth and stand value of the forests by providing them the adequate resources for growth and minimizing the competition. The growth of the plant can be assessed either by the growth of the branches and the main stem or by the assessment of the growth of the cambium (forrester et al., 2012). The height of the trees has been found to be effective in the trees where there are neighboring shelter trees available in the niche od the plant in consideration (Dobner & Huss, 2019). However, this growth reduces the overall area of the canopy and affects the diametric growth of the tree. Thinning plays a crucial role in this case as it helps in increasing the girth of the trees promotes lateral growth of the wood (Volkova et al., 2017). Thinning can impact the form, diameter and wood quality in the trees. Adequate spacing generated through thinning aids in development of increased space and promotes growth of the trees (Volkova et al., 2019). This has been associated with the fact that thinning and pruning can help in reducing the height this affects the basal area of the tree (Brown et al., 2019)

The effect of thinning is also impacting the height of the plants (Algeria et al., 2019). Thinning allows plants to be evenly spaced and hence provides a means to improve their overall growth (Ferraz et al., 2018). The mean stand volume in the forest plantations with thinning has been observed to be as high as 7-8% against the unthinned plantations at the time of harvest. It has been deduced that thinning the Eucalyptus plantations at the age of 3.2 has the most significant impact on tree growth. The average productivity of the stand by thinning at 3.2 years is increased by 45% and the average height of the plantation increases by 19% (Navarrete et al., 2016). The thinning at 3.2 years target the poorly formed stems in the plantations and therefore embarks an overall positive effect in the volume and productivity of the stand.

The overall stand volume and quality were also impacted by the overall age of the plantations (Chu et al., 2019). The forests that had younger plants possessed a higher based area compared to the Older stands that had lower productivity and base area (Waters et al., 2018). Thinning in the plantations has known to increase the base area. However, thinning in older stands leads to less significant results in the base area increase in contrast to the younger stands (Silva et al., 2018). The mixed-species stands can replace the heavy thinning treatments, as the species of the same tree will directly compete with each other. This was deduced to occur as the younger trees grow faster than the older trees in a stand as evidenced by Carsky (2019) that the stand productivity, volume, and growth efficiency is highest in mixed-species stands and is further improved by thinning. Overall, it can be concluded that thinning results in an increase in the basal area of the Eucalyptus plantations and improve the overall stand volume and productivity. 

Discussion: Effects of Thinning

It has been found that for the production of thicker logs the trees must be planted at a lower initial stocking rate and thinned frequently to promote the growth of the diameter of the trunk (Chen et al., 2017). Thinning helps promote the stand volume and growth as it reduces the inter-tree competition in a plantation. The individual tree volumes in the thinned plantations are significantly greater than those in the unthinned plantations (Acuna et al., 2017). Successful thinning also improves the growth and volume by affecting the spacing factor. The spacing factor is a useful method to calculate and estimate the basal area in the uniform plantations. It has been evaluated that if the basal area in the plantation is over 30 m2/ha in eucalypts then diameter growth is often reduced to less than 5mm per year compared to more than 20mm that may be possible in more open stands (Tonini et al., 2019). Thinning henceforth provides an adequate spatial arrangement for the Eucalyptus trees to grow. The tree is often grown for its timber in Australia and a planned harvest is therefore encouraged. The planters aim to generate clear and knotless eucalyptus wood by thinning and pruning the trees (Mederios et al., 2017).

Timely and adequate thinning in these plantations assures that the trees maintain a healthy growth rate and there is minimal competition with the neighboring plants for the resources like light, soil minerals, and water (Gonsalves et al., 2018). Thinning ensures that the trees are produced with greater volume and a larger girth that allows in the enhancement of the overall wood quality and provide stability in high winds. The tree is light demanding and the lower crowns tend to die in cases of high competition. Therefore, thinning allows maintaining of healthy growth in the plantation (Dobner & Huss, 2019). Hence, the primary aim of the thinning in eucalyptus plantations is to minimize the crown competition for light and to maintain the adequate branch size to promote the lateral growth of the cambium.

It is advised that crop stocking of 150-200 stems must be thinned per hectare for obtaining high-quality sawlogs (Volkova & Weston, 2019). The heartwood of the tree has a higher value than the sapwood. By increasing the girth of the trees, the ratio of the heartwood of the tree is enhanced and also promotes economic growth. By thinning the plants at the younger age of about 3.2 years a higher value of the tree breadth is improved (de Vargas et al., 2019). This is explained as at younger age, the growth rate of the plant is more and therefore, thinning at this state, results in improvement of the overall stand volume. In a plantation, the requirements of the trees can lead to inert species competition (Acuna et al., 2017). Therefore, the availability of resources can limit the growth of the plants. By adequate spacing that is provided by the thinning, this competition is minimized and the overall stand volume and the productivity of the stand are enhanced. 

Future Prospects: Effects of Thinning

Through this analysis, the importance of thinning and its impact on the Eucalyptus plantations is asserted. This study can be used for future analysis of plant growth and plantation evaluation associated with eucalyptus. More efficient thinning strategies can be developed in a species-specific manner to enhance their impact on the stand volume of the plantation (Acuna et al., 2017). This study can also be applied to understand the growth structure and development of the stand volumes in association with factors like plant age, plant type, and topography. Primary research can be conducted to test the efficacy of thinning in the plantations of different eucalyptus plant species that are of economic value and used for contrast to developing a standardization (Tonini et al., 2019). Impacts of thinning on the stand volume of eucalyptus can also be contrasted is different thinning strategies by performing primary analysis to deduce the stand volume, wood quality, and plant growth in different conditions in response to different thinning strategies (Fiedler et al., 2019). 

Conclusion on Effects of Thinning

This thesis provides a concise explanation of the impact of trimming on the stand volume in the eucalyptus plantations. This document presents secondary research that aims to identify the impact and effect of plantations thinning on the overall growth and volume. Eucalyptus is one of the vastly growing trees in Australia and occupies a major forest landmass. The tree is used in many forms and is particularly marketed as sawlogs. Since, the tree naturally possesses long and slender stem, the quality of the logs is compromised. Therefore, thinning of theses plantations has been found to be of significant importance in promoting the cambial growth and enhancing the overall volume of the individual plants as well as of the plantation. Trees in an unthinned plantation are placed close to each other and therefore, it may result in an interspecies competition that may hinder the growth. Thinning limits this competition and allows for adequate availability of the resources and henceforth improves the quality and stand volume. This document chiefly discusses the distribution and the nature of the eucalyptus plantations in Australia and also derives the relationship between the impact and effects of thinning on the plantation.

The essential finding of this document asserts that thinning in the young stand is more effective than in older stands as the plants have a higher growth rate at a young age. For eucalyptus, the most appropriate time for thinning has been evaluated to be at 3.2 years since plantation. Thinning also impacts the growth rate, plant height, and the overall health of the plantation. Further, the impact of factors like the spatial arrangement, availability of resources, and plant age on the stand volume of plantation in association with thinning has also been discussed. This document also discusses the future aspects of this research and concludes that comprehensive primary studies can be undertaken for the analysis of the thinning in the Australian plantations concerning the species variability, topography, and other factors that may impact the stand volume of the plantation. Since eucalyptus is one of the chief economic plants of the Australian forestry system, thinning techniques can be applied to enhance the productivity and volume of the plantation that can be converted to economic gains of the region. 

References for Effects of Thinning

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