We examined the extent to which direct and indirect measures of light and microsite conditions could explain variation in tree height and diameter at the base of 6-year-old Cryptomeria japonica trees planted in a group selection opening of about 0.32 ha on a steep slope at Shiiba, Miyazaki Prefecture, southern Japan. We first used the gap light index (GLI) and soil thickness (ST) as directly measured indices. For an indirect measure of light, we used a between-cohort competition index (BCI) estimated from the position and total height of residual trees. For indirect measures of microsite, we examined topographic indices (slope, plan and profile curvature, average slope gradient, and relative elevation) derived from digital elevation models (DEMs) with different resolutions ranging from 2 to 10 m. The multiple linear regression using GLI and ST explained about 45% of variation in tree size, while simple regression using only GLI explained about 35%. The contribution of ST was about half of GLI. The multiple regressions using BCI and the topographic indices did not explain any more variation than using BCI alone (R 2 of about 0.26). We conclude that microsite conditions with shallower soil and steeper slope have negative effects on tree growth in group selection openings, although the relative importance is smaller than light conditions. More comprehensive studies considering several openings with more heterogeneous topography including different species are needed to generalize our growth prediction using the indirect measures, which are useful for practical forest management.
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