Effect of Woody Biomass Removal on Forest Biodiversity and Nutrient Cycling
National forests are facing increasing pressures to allow woody biomass harvesting to help meet the Nation's demand for alternative energy sources, but the short- and long-term effects of such removals are unknown. A readily available source of biomass material is the slash from forest thinning operations that are traditionally left on the forest floor. This woody debris is a critical element in managing biodiversity and nutrient cycling.
Forest Service scientists examined the effects of removing different intensities of fine woody debris (tops and limbs) at 2 years after harvest in a northern hardwood system. One of the removal intensities was a current recommended best management practice. The scientists studied community assemblages of amphibians, herbaceous plants, and beetles and nutrient cycling.
In general, few short-term qualitative changes in species composition existed at the plot-level across the three debris removal treatments sites for all species groups. Tree regeneration was similar across treatments. These findings represent short-term responses of multiple trophic levels to forest residue removal and provide baseline information to begin evaluating long-term effects of woody biomass removal on forest biodiversity and nutrient cycling.