Canadian Forest Service Publications
Intensive biomass removals and site productivity in Canada: A review of relevant issues. 2010. Thiffault, E.; Paré, D.; Brais, S.; Titus, B.D. The Forestry Chronicle 86(1): 36-42.
Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre
Catalog ID: 31535
Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)
A renewed interest in the intensive harvesting of forest biomass as a source of bioenergy in North America raises concerns about the impacts that this practice may have on the maintenance of forest soil productivity. In Canada, such concerns were first voiced in the 1970s, and studies were launched to investigate and predict the impact of intensive forest biomass removal on site productivity. Most of these studies focused on static nutrient budgets. In Canada and around the world, more detailed process models were also developed to study carbon, nitrogen and base cation cycles under different forest harvesting intensities. However, the validity of modelling results is still constrained by our lack of knowledge on the capacity of ecosystems to supply nutrients. A few sets of field trials have been established in Canada to gather empirical data on the impact of biomass removal on soil nutrient reserves as well as on tree nutrition and growth. Although still fairly recent, these field trials, along with the older ones established in other countries with similar site conditions and climates, provide opportunities to refine our understanding of the resilience of ecosystem processes and of the impacts of intensive biomass removal on ecosystem functions. Although numerous knowledge gaps and questions remain, some jurisdictions around the world have nevertheless issued policy directives and developed guidelines for biomass harvesting. As described by the concept of adaptive forest management, ecological monitoring of harvesting operations, scientific field testing and modelling can all interact to produce better knowledge that could then help improve policy directives.