The Effects of Forest Thinning Practices and Altered Nutrient Supply on Soil Trace Gas Fluxes in Colorado


Increases in wildfire activity in the western United States have prompted land managers to reevaluate management practices. In the Colorado Front Range, where population density is high, there is often a great concern regarding wildfire which leads to efforts that will reduce fire hazard. The most common method of achieving this goal is to thin the forest of small diameter trees. Oftentimes these practices are undertaken with little knowledge of the ecological consequences of such treatments. We investigated the effect(s) of three treatments (control, thinning-only and broadcast chipping) on trace gas fluxes (CO2, CH4, and N2O), litter mass, and soil carbon and nitrogen. In a small plot study, we used a 2 × 3 × 3 randomized complete block design to determine the influence of nutrient amendments (woodchips, nitrogen, and phosphorus availability) on trace gas fluxes. The stand-management study revealed that neither thinning-only nor broadcast chipping significantly affected soil carbon or nitrogen, while thinning-only significantly reduced the amount of forest floor litter. Each trace gas flux was significantly affected by the date of sampling (June or August). CO2 and N2O fluxes each had a significant interaction between treatment and sampling date. We attribute this to a difference in moisture availability between the sampling times. In the plot study we found that only the interaction between woodchip addition and phosphorus availability significantly affected CO2 flux. Nitrous oxide fluxes were not significantly affected by any combination, however, methane uptake was found to respond significantly to different nitrogen and phosphorus levels.

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Gathany, M. and Burke, I. (2014) The Effects of Forest Thinning Practices and Altered Nutrient Supply on Soil Trace Gas Fluxes in Colorado. Open Journal of Forestry, 4, 278-289. doi: 10.4236/ojf.2014.43034.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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