Canadian Forest Service Publications

Reconciling harvest intensity and plant diversity in boreal ecosystems: does intensification influence understory plant diversity? 2015. Kershaw, H.M; Morris, D.M.; Fleming, R.L.; Luckai, N.J. Environmental Management DOI 10.1007/s00267-015-0551-8.

Year: 2015

Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 36194

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1007/s00267-015-0551-8

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Overall demand for forest products in the bor eal forest is increasing to supply growing bio-energy demands in addition to traditional forest products. As a result, there is a need to refine current forest policies to reconcile production and ecosystem function within the context of ecologically sustainable management. This study assessed understory plants' richness, evenness, and diversity in six harvested boreal black spruce-dominated stands situated on loam, sand, and peat site types 15 years after the application of four harvest treatments of increas ing biomass removals. Treatments included uncut, stemonly harvest, full-tree harvest, and full-tree har vest + blading of O horizon. Following canopy removal, species richness and diversity (Shannon's and Simpson's indices) increased on all soil types. The more than doubling of slash loading on the stem-only treatment plots compared to the full-tree plots led to significantly lower species diversity on loam sites; however, the reverse was observed on peat sites where the slash provided warmer, drier microsites facilitating the establishment of a broader array

Plain Language Summary

As overall demand for forest products from the boreal forest increases to meet bioenergy needs, current forest policies may need to be refined to ensure ecosystem sustainability. We assessed understory plant richness, evenness, and diversity in boreal black spruce-dominated stands situated on loam, sand, and peatland site types 15 years after harvest. Four harvest treatments of increasing biomass removals included uncut, stem-only harvest, full-tree harvest, and full-tree harvest plus blading. We found that species richness and diversity increased on all soil types after canopy removal. Species diversity was reduced on loam soils with stem-only harvest compared to full-tree harvest due to greater slash loading on the plots. The reverse was observed on peatland sites. The results suggest that the effects of intensification of harvesting on plant diversity vary with soil type, and these differential results should be considered in the refinement of forest biomass-harvesting guidelines to ensure ecological sustainability.