RenardGauthierFentonEtal2016

Reference

Renard, S.M., Gauthier, S., Fenton, N.J., Lafleur, B., Bergeron, Y. (2016) Prescribed burning after clearcut limits paludification in black spruce boreal forest. Forest Ecology and Management, 359:147 - 155. (URL )

Abstract

Abstract Paludification, the accumulation over the mineral soil of poorly decomposed organic matter mainly originating from Sphagnum spp., transforms black spruce (Picea mariana) boreal forests into forested peatlands in the prolonged absence of fire, which diminishes forest productivity. High-severity wildfires reset this process by burning the soil organic layer (SOL) and reinitiating forest succession. In contrast, low severity wildfires impact mainly the soil surface and tree layer and do not significantly reduce {SOL} depth. In the Clay Belt region of eastern Canada, an area prone to paludification, the current forest harvest practice (careful logging around advanced growth [CLAAG]) removes trees but has little impact on the {SOL} and the understorey vegetation. This is thought to further promote paludification, which consequently reduces forest productivity. Conversely, clearcut (CC) disturbs the {SOL} and the understorey vegetation, and is thought to favor tree growth. Furthermore, prescribed burning after clearcut (CCPB) is used as a site preparation technique, but may also be used to control paludification as it can burn part of the organic soil layer. Using a retrospective approach, our study examines three hypotheses: compared to CLAAG, {CC} and CCPB: (1) have positive effects on soil conditions (e.g. decomposition level and pH), (2) reduce Sphagnum spp. and ericaceous shrub cover and (3) result in enhanced black spruce growth. We sampled 22 sites in which we measured {SOL} characteristics (e.g. depth, decomposition state), understorey vegetation cover and black spruce growth. Compared to CLAAG, {CCPB} resulted in increased soil decomposition level and higher pH. {CCPB} also reduced Sphagnum spp. cover but not ericaceous shrub cover. Black spruce growth rate was higher following {CCPB} than CC, and mean dominant tree height was marginally higher following {CCPB} than {CLAAG} and CC. Our results demonstrate that {CCPB} is beneficial to black spruce growth, presumably through its effects on forest understorey and {SOL} chemistry. While not similar to a high severity fire, prescribed burning after clearcut in paludified stands on the Clay Belt emulates some wildfire effects such as increasing soil pH. We suggest that unlike CLAAG, prescribed burning after clearcut can restore black spruce stand productivity and should be considered in the context of forest ecosystem management.

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@ARTICLE { RenardGauthierFentonEtal2016,
    TITLE = { Prescribed burning after clearcut limits paludification in black spruce boreal forest },
    AUTHOR = { Renard, S.M. and Gauthier, S. and Fenton, N.J. and Lafleur, B. and Bergeron, Y. },
    JOURNAL = { Forest Ecology and Management },
    YEAR = { 2016 },
    PAGES = { 147 - 155 },
    VOLUME = { 359 },
    ABSTRACT = { Abstract Paludification, the accumulation over the mineral soil of poorly decomposed organic matter mainly originating from Sphagnum spp., transforms black spruce (Picea mariana) boreal forests into forested peatlands in the prolonged absence of fire, which diminishes forest productivity. High-severity wildfires reset this process by burning the soil organic layer (SOL) and reinitiating forest succession. In contrast, low severity wildfires impact mainly the soil surface and tree layer and do not significantly reduce \{SOL\} depth. In the Clay Belt region of eastern Canada, an area prone to paludification, the current forest harvest practice (careful logging around advanced growth [CLAAG]) removes trees but has little impact on the \{SOL\} and the understorey vegetation. This is thought to further promote paludification, which consequently reduces forest productivity. Conversely, clearcut (CC) disturbs the \{SOL\} and the understorey vegetation, and is thought to favor tree growth. Furthermore, prescribed burning after clearcut (CCPB) is used as a site preparation technique, but may also be used to control paludification as it can burn part of the organic soil layer. Using a retrospective approach, our study examines three hypotheses: compared to CLAAG, \{CC\} and CCPB: (1) have positive effects on soil conditions (e.g. decomposition level and pH), (2) reduce Sphagnum spp. and ericaceous shrub cover and (3) result in enhanced black spruce growth. We sampled 22 sites in which we measured \{SOL\} characteristics (e.g. depth, decomposition state), understorey vegetation cover and black spruce growth. Compared to CLAAG, \{CCPB\} resulted in increased soil decomposition level and higher pH. \{CCPB\} also reduced Sphagnum spp. cover but not ericaceous shrub cover. Black spruce growth rate was higher following \{CCPB\} than CC, and mean dominant tree height was marginally higher following \{CCPB\} than \{CLAAG\} and CC. Our results demonstrate that \{CCPB\} is beneficial to black spruce growth, presumably through its effects on forest understorey and \{SOL\} chemistry. While not similar to a high severity fire, prescribed burning after clearcut in paludified stands on the Clay Belt emulates some wildfire effects such as increasing soil pH. We suggest that unlike CLAAG, prescribed burning after clearcut can restore black spruce stand productivity and should be considered in the context of forest ecosystem management. },
    DOI = { http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2015.09.037 },
    ISSN = { 0378-1127 },
    KEYWORDS = { Controlled burning },
    URL = { http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112715005320 },
}

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