Effects of Whole-Tree Harvesting on Species Composition of Tree and Understory Communities in a Northern Hardwood Forest


In the northeastern United States, whole-tree harvesting is widely used to supply fuel to biomass energy facilities, but questions remain regarding its long-term sustainability. We have previously reported findings indicating no short-term decrease in forest productivity in whole-tree harvested sites when compared with similar conventionally (stem-only) harvested sites. Here we present additional results of the same study, but focus on the effect harvest treatment has on the species composition of the regenerating forest. Within northern hardwood forests in central New Hampshire and western Maine, regeneration surveys were conducted on four (4) small clearcuts in 2010 and twenty-nine (29) small clearcuts in 2011. The species and diameter of trees > 2 m in height were recorded within 1 m or 2 m-radius plots and used to calculate the biomass fraction of each species. The 2010 study additionally measured the density of trees < 2 m in height and the diversity of understory non-tree species. Non-metric multidimensional scaling and multi-response permutation procedures were used to determine the effect of harvest treatment had on community-wide tree species composition. Potential differences were also examined on a species-by-species basis. Both analytic methods indicated no significant differences in species composition of tree species or understory communities. Within the limits of our data, we conclude that no significant effects of residue removal on species composition are observed within our sample of northern hardwood sites at this early stage of stand development.

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Roxby, G. , Howard, T. and Lee, T. (2015) Effects of Whole-Tree Harvesting on Species Composition of Tree and Understory Communities in a Northern Hardwood Forest. Open Journal of Forestry, 5, 235-253. doi: 10.4236/ojf.2015.52021.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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