Canadian Forest Service Publications

Effect of variable-retention harvesting on soil nitrogen availability in boreal mixedwood forests. 2006. Jerabkova, L.; Prescott, C.E.; Kishchuk, B.E. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 36(11): 3029-3038.

Year: 2006

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 27369

Language: English

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Clear-cut harvesting of forests may be associated with increased availability and losses of nitrogen (N), and variable-retention (VR) harvesting has been proposed as an environmentally acceptable alternative to clear-cutting. In boreal forests, however, harvesting has often not led to significant increases in N availability and it is thus important to assess whether variable retention practices are necessary and justifiable in such forests with respect to nutrient dynamics. We compared N availability in clear-cut and VR-harvested stands in the boreal mixedwood forest of northwestern Alberta. We measured soil concentrations of nitrate, ammonium, soluble organic N, and microbial N in uncut, 50% and 20% retention, and clearcuts of deciduous-dominated, coniferous-dominated, and mixed stands 4 years after harvesting. There was little apparent effect of harvesting on N availability in all forest types. Nitrate, ammonium, and microbial N concentrations and net N mineralization and nitrification rates were similar in clearcuts and uncut forests and there was no threshold effect of harvesting on N availability. Soluble organic N concentrations were lower in coniferous and mixed clearcuts than in uncut stands on only one occasion. Clear-cut harvesting in itself does not appear to lead to long-lasting increased N availability and losses in boreal mixedwoods. Adoption of VR harvesting in these ecosystems may not be justified on the grounds of reducing changes in N availability when compared with clear-cutting