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Effect of Woody Biomass Removal on Forest Biodiversity and Nutrient Cycling

Fine woody biomass (tops and limbs) of northern hardwoods removed post-harvest and stacked for processing, Chequemegon-Nicolet National Forest, Wisconsin. Deahn Donner, Forest ServiceSnapshot : Findings represent short-term effects and give a baseline for long-term study

Principal Investigators(s) :
Donner, Deahn 
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2012
Highlight ID : 49


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.