Scion (New Zealand Forest Research Institute Ltd.), Private Bag 3020, Rotorua, New Zealand.
Phaeocryptopus gaeumannii, the cause of Swiss needle-cast, is widely distributed in plantations of Douglas-fir in many parts of the world. Nevertheless, information remains limited on its precise effect on stand growth, particularly in relation to regional climate, and on its consequent economic cost. In New Zealand, the spread of P. gaeumannii over a period of ≈30 years following its discovery in 1959 was closely monitored, and the timing of its arrival in different forests is known. This information was coupled with data from permanent sample plots in order to quantify the associated historical growth increment loss. Analyses revealed a steady decline in growth rate over the period from the first appearance of P. gaeumannii to a point when it stabilized at a lower increment level 14 to 20 years later. The cumulative mean reduction was 25% for mean top height, 27% for basal area, and 32% for stem volume. Volume growth rate decline was greater in the North Island (35%) than the South Island (23%) of New Zealand. These reductions in volume growth are estimated to equate to a loss in net present value of $NZ2,620 ha–1 and $NZ1,470 ha–1 for the North and South Islands, respectively, using a discount rate of 6%. Mortality did not increase as a result of infection by P. gaeumannii. The disease had less effect on cooler sites, especially those with low spring minimum temperatures (P < 0.001). Negligible growth decline occurred on sites with daily minimum October temperatures averaging <3.2°C.