Given uncertainty surrounding future climate and disturbance regimes, balancing objectives that include continuing to provide current forest products, meeting future resource demands, and maintaining ecosystem services presents a formidable challenge to forest managers. This research explored the short- and medium-term impacts of removing harvest residues for bioenergy feedstocks on aspen-dominated forests of the Lake States region. On sandy soils the removal of residues reduced standing biomass compared with stem-only harvest (SOH) 15 years after treatment, but no negative effect on aboveground biomass was observed following whole-tree harvest (WTH) on clayey or silty loam soils. Maximum diameter and the density of stems (> 5 cm diameter at breast height) declined on silty loam and sandy soils in response to increased severity in compaction and organic matter removal, respectively, indicating that structural development may be slowed. Although three species diversity measures and four functional diversity measures were used to assess community response to harvest disturbance, only indicator species analysis detected a functionally-relevant shift in community composition and structure that followed the most severe treatment combination on silty loam. This result highlighted the importance of employing multiple measures of diversity and composition to assess harvest impacts.
Observations 2 years following bioenergy harvest with retention of aggregated overstory reserve trees indicate that both residue removal and overstory retention influence understory community composition. However, species diversity measures differed only between controls and disturbed areas (aggregates, SOH, WTH). Herbaceous plants considered interior forest obligates, such as Trientalis borealis, occurred in the aggregate understory, suggesting potential for small aggregates (0.1 ha) to serve as refugia for some species, at least in the short-term. Aspen sucker densities 0-5 m from the aggregate in the adjacent harvested areas were indistinguishable from densities 20 m from the aggregate edge, indicating ecological objectives might be achieved through aggregate retention without a trade-off in initial regeneration densities.
Overall, results indicate that responses to the level of disturbance associated with harvest residue removal differ among sites, even when dominated by the same overstory species, but there is potential for severe disturbance to reduce standing biomass, shift community composition, and alter function and structure.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2014. Major: Natural Resources Science and Management. Advisor: Dr. Anthony W. D’Amato. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 170 mpages.
Curzon, Miranda Thomas.
Productivity, recovery, diversity, and function of aspen-dominated forests vary in response to biomass harvest severity.
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