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Abstract

In the 100 years following the arrival of Euro-American settlers in northern Arizona, Pinus ponderosa (ponderosa pine) forests changed from open, low-density stands to closed, high-density stands. The increase in tree density has been detrimental to the vigor of old-growth trees that established before settlement (presettlement trees). In this study, we examined whether the vigor of presettlement trees could be improved by restoring the original stand structure by thinning the ponderosa pines that established after settlement (postsettlement trees). The restoration treatment caused the following changes in the presettlement trees and their environment in the first year following thinning: an increase in volumetric soil water content between May and August, an increase in predawn xylem water potential in July and August, a decrease in midday xylem water potential in June and August, an increase in net photosynthetic rate in August, an increase in foliar nitrogen concentration in July and August, and an increase in bud and needle size. The results show that the thinning restoration treatment improved the condition of presettlement ponderosa pines by increasing canopy growth and the uptake of water, nitrogen, and carbon.