Nine-year changes in carbon dynamics following different intensities of harvesting in boreal aspen stands.
Manuella Strukelj-Humphery, Suzanne Brais, David Paré.
Mixedwood forests occupy a large extent of boreal regions and have the potential for sequestering large amounts of carbon. In the context of forest ecosystem management, partial cutting prescriptions are increasingly being applied to boreal mixedwood stands. Partial harvesting is expected to maintain carbon pools and dynamics within the limits of those of natural stands. Changes in live tree, deadwood (standing snags, downed logs), forest floor and mineral soil carbon pools were assessed over a 9-year period in a replicated large-scale experiment, which included unharvested controls, two variants of partial harvesting and clear-cuts. We also measured leaf litter and deadwood inputs and decay rates. Carbon flux through leaf litterfall recovered rapidly following partial harvesting. Carbon flux from live trees to deadwood pools was a dominant process in partially harvested stands where snags and downed log carbon pools remained similar to those of natural stands. Hence, the nature of litter inputs diverged strongly among clear-cut and partially harvested treatments. Leaf and wood decay rates were higher in the partial cuts and controls than in clear-cuts. No significant differences in forest floor and mineral soil carbon were observed 9 years after harvesting. Carbon sequestration in live tree biomass was the carbon pool that most strongly differentiated the treatments allowing partial harvesting to maintain forest stands as net carbon sinks.