Canadian Forest Service Publications

Forest floor microbial communities in relation to stand composition and timber harvesting in northern Alberta. 2006. Hannam, K.D.; Quideau, S.A.; Kishchuk, B.E. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 38(9): 2565-2575.

Year: 2006

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 26332

Language: English

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With the growing interest in silvicultural techniques that more closely emulate natural disturbance regimes, there is a need to better understand how partial harvesting affects the soil microbial community in stands with varying ecological characteristics, e.g., tree species composition. Four and a half and 5.5 years post-harvest, we used phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) and substrate-induced respiration (SIR) analyses to compare the microbial biomass and microbial community structure of forest floors from stands dominated by white spruce (Picea glauca; SPRUCE) or by trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides; ASPEN) and from mixed-species (MIXED) stands in northern Alberta, Canada, that had been clearcut, partial-cut with 20% retention, partial-cut with 50% retention or left uncut (controls). PLFA and SIR analyses revealed that ASPEN forest floors supported a larger microbial biomass with a very different community structure than MIXED or SPRUCE forest floors. The microbial community structure of these soils appeared to be strongly affected by the presence of white spruce and the composition of the understory vegetation. There were no effects of timber harvesting detected within or across stand types on any of the variables measured, with the exception of the PLFA 16:1?5, which was relatively more abundant in the clearcuts and 50% retention treatments than in the uncut controls, perhaps in response to an increased forest floor pH and grass cover in the disturbed areas. The resilience to timber harvesting of the forest floors from these stands may be the result of efforts to minimize soil disturbance during harvesting and to allow vegetation to regenerate naturally. From the perspective of the forest floor microbial community, partial harvesting does not appear to have any benefit over clearcut harvesting at these boreal forest sites.