Canadian Forest Service Publications

Prescribed burning of harvested boreal black spruce forests in eastern Canada: effect on understory vegetation. 2016. Faivre, N.; Boudreault, C.; Renard, S.; Fenton, N.J.; Gauthier, S.; Bergeron, Y. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 46:876-884.

Year: 2016

Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 36798

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1139/cjfr-2015-0439

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Ecosystem-based management advocates that forestry disturbances should aim to emulate natural disturbances to mitigate the landscape level impact of forest management. This study compares the impact of clear-cuts followed by a prescribed burn (CCPB) with clear-cuts alone (CC) and current careful logging practices (CLAAG: careful logging around advanced growth) on understory composition within black spruce paludified forest stands at the plot, site and treatment levels using a functional type approach. Vascular and non-vascular taxa showed significant differences in composition at the plot level among treatments. We found that pioneer taxa occurred mainly in CCPB sites, while late successional taxa characterized CC sites. CLAAG sites had higher taxa richness than CCPB and CC sites and we found that CCPB treatments were most likely to promote vascular taxa compositions that are more similar to those observed after natural disturbances. Additionally, the relative abundance of Sphagnum spp., responsible for paludification, was significantly reduced in sites treated by prescribed burning. This study therefore presents results suggesting that prescribed burning might represent a sustainable alternative to current harvesting techniques in the Clay Belt of eastern Canada that could both help in preserving biodiversity (in terms of understory species assemblage) while maintaining or even enhancing forest productivity.

Plain Language Summary

The results of this study suggest that clear-cutting followed by prescribed burning is a sustainable alternative to current silvicultural practices in stands that are prone to paludification. This treatment makes it possible to preserve the biodiversity of understory vegetation and to maintain, or even increase, productivity in these stands.

Paludification is a natural process by which the layer of soil organic matter continuously thickens. Among other repercussions, tree growth is progressively reduced as this layer of organic matter grows.