Effects of intensive management practices on 10-year Douglas-fir growth, soil nutrient pools, and vegetation communities in the Pacific Northwest, USA

Robert A. Slesak, Timothy B. Harrington, David H. Peter, Daniel G. DeBruler, Stephen H. Schoenholtz, Brian D. Strahm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Intensive management practices are commonly used to increase fiber production from forests, but potential tradeoffs with maintenance of long-term productivity and early successional biodiversity have yet to be quantified. We assessed soil and vegetation responses in replicated manipulations of logging debris (LD; either retained or removed) and competing vegetation control (VC; either initial or sustained annually for 5. years) for 10. years at two Douglas-fir sites that contrasted strongly in availability of soil nutrients and water. We evaluated (1) survival and growth of Douglas-fir to determine short-term effectiveness for fiber production, (2) change in soil C and nutrient pools as an indicator of longer-term effects of treatments on soil quality and ecosystem production, and (3) vegetation composition and cover for treatment effects on early successional biodiversity. Annual VC caused large increases in Douglas-fir growth at both sites, but increased survival only at the lower-productivity site. In most instances and regardless of site or treatment, soil C and nutrient pools increased following harvesting, but the increases were generally larger with lower intensity practices (LD retained and initial VC). Effects of LD were small and inconsistent at the higher productivity site, but LD retained increased Douglas-fir survival and growth and soil nutrient pools at the lower productivity site. Species diversity was reduced at both sites with annual VC because of increased Douglas-fir cover, but the magnitude was greater and the timing was earlier at the higher quality site where plant communities in all treatments had converged by year 10. Annual VC can be used to increase growth of planted Douglas-fir while maintaining soil nutrient pools for sustained ecosystem productivity, but a concurrent decrease in early successional diversity will occur with impacts increasing with site quality. Logging debris retention can have positive benefits to Douglas-fir growth and soil nutrient pools, particularly at lower quality sites. Our results demonstrate a need for careful consideration of site quality to ensure that objectives are realized with regards to fiber production and maintenance of soil productivity and biodiversity with intensive forest management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-33
Number of pages12
JournalForest Ecology and Management
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier B.V..


  • Early successional
  • Forest biomass harvest
  • Long term soil productivity
  • Organic matter manipulation
  • Vegetation dynamics


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