Modelling the influence of different harvesting methods on forest dynamics
in the boreal mixedwoods of western Quebec, Canada.
Kobra Maleki, Benoit Lafleur, Alain Leduc, Yves Bergeron.
Forest management aims to better understand effects of natural disturbance regimes on forest dynamics and use this knowledge to formulate guidelines in forest planning, thereby narrowing gaps between managed and unmanaged forest landscapes. Using forest simulators to reconstruct forest dynamics in relation to ecosystem processes, including disturbances, could help forest managers to better understand harvesting effects on forest dynamics. Using SORTIE-ND, a spatially explicit forest simulator, we generated stand dynamics for 100 years following simulated clear-cut and partial harvests (dispersed vs aggregated, with 30% and 60% basal area removal). Based on the hardwood: conifer basal area ratio, we grouped post-fire stands into three stand types corresponding to natural post-fire succession (deciduous, mixed deciduous, and mixed coniferous) and assessed long-term effects of clear-cutting and partial harvesting on each. Our results suggest that spatial configurations of harvested and residual trees had a greater effect on stand dynamics than did tree removal intensity. Following dispersed partial harvesting, both deciduous and mixed deciduous stands had species composition and structure similar to unharvested stands of the next successional stage. In these same stand types, aggregated harvests and clear-cutting favoured increased regeneration and basal area increments of aspen, which set succession back to aspen dominance, as has been observed after wildfire. Dispersed partial harvests (both 30% and 60%) and 30% aggregated cuts, in mixed coniferous stands, maintained recruitment and dominance of conifers to levels comparable with unmanaged stands. Clear-cutting in all stand types greatly modified stand compositional and structural attributes, and, when conducted in stands where aspen was abundant, performed as a stand-replacing disturbance, setting succession back to early developmental stages, i.e., to aspen dominance. We conclude that partial harvesting, which emulates gap dynamics similar to undisturbed stands, can maintain natural stand dynamics.