Soil nutrient dynamics after harvesting and slash treatments in boreal
Annie Belleau, Suzanne Brais, David Paré.
The effects of harvesting and slash treatments on soil nutrient dynamics were assessed in boreal aspen stands growing on mesic clayey sites. Stem-only harvested stands were compared with unharvested controls according to a complete block design with three replications. Within harvested areas, four slash treatments (stem-only harvesting [SOH], whole-tree harvesting [WHT], wood chip application, and slash burns) were compared. Treatments created a gradient of slash that ranged from 52.3 Mg ha–1 in stem-only to 13.8 Mg ha–1 in control stands. The amount of slash had no effect on wood decomposition rates but was strongly associated with higher forest floor organic C, Kjeldahl N and base cation concentrations (Cae and Mge), base saturation, pH, and effective cation exchange capacity (CEC) and lower microbial C/N when control stands were compared with stem-only harvested stands. Slash burn severity was too low to significantly reduce slash loads and induce base cation release but severe enough to reduce forest floor microbial C and N concentrations (–48 and –55%, respectively) for at least one complete growing season. Slash burn also induced increases in forest floor available P (54%) concentration compared with other slash treatments. Chipping reduced forest floor microbial N concentration by 25% and increased microbial C/N by 28% but had no impact on nutrient availability. Differences between WTH and SOH were linked to the abundance of slash. Finally, the results illustrate that whatever the treatment, the amount of slash left on the ground is the main factor found to affect soil microbial community characteristics and soil nutrient availability.
Abbreviations : CEC, effective cation exchange capacity • CHT, chipping harvesting treatment • PCA, principal component analysis • SB, slash-burn treatment • SOH, stem-only harvesting treatment • WTH, whole-tree harvesting treatment