Canadian Forest Service Publications

How do forest harvesting methods compare with wildfire? A case study of soil chemistry and tree nutrition in the boreal forest. 2007. Thiffault, E.; Bélanger, N.; Paré, D.; Munson, A.D. Can. J. For. Res. 37: 1658-1668.

Year: 2007

Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 28067

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

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An important tenet of the natural disturbance paradigm as a basis for sustainable forest management is that impacts of interventions fall within the range of natural variation observed for the disturbance in question. We evaluated differences in soil nutrients, soil acid-base status, and tree nutrition between two harvesting methods (whole-tree (WTH) and stem-only (SOH)) and wilfire, 15-20 years after disturbance, to assess whether these harvesting methods have biogeochemical impacts that are within the natural range of variation caused by wilfires in boreal coniferous stands of Haute-Mauricie (Quebec). Both SOH and WTH created conditions of forest floor effective cation-exchange capacity, exchangeable Ca and K concentrations, base saturation, Ca:Al molar ratio, and organic C concentrations that were lower than the range of values for wildfires. We hypothesize that the immediate deposition of soluble base cations and the incorporation of recalcitrant organic matter that characterize wildfires generate biogeochemical conditions that are not emulated by either harvesting method. The improved soil nutritional environment after wildfire compared with SOH and WTH was reflected in jack pine (Pinus banksiana Lamb.) foliar nutrient composition but not in black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) BSP) foliage. The results raise uncertainties about the long-term base nutrient availability of the harvested sites on Boreal Shield soils.