Logging debris has the potential to benefit forest regeneration by increasing resource availability, modifying microclimate, and altering plant community structure. To understand potential mechanisms driving these benefits, we initiated research at a forested site on the Olympic Peninsula, WA that contained the invasive, nonnative competitor, Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius). Immediately after harvesting the stand of mature coast Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii) in late 2011, two levels of logging debris retention were created on replicated plots: 18.9 and 9.0 Mg ha−1, with debris depths averaging 32 and 17 cm, respectively. Within each plot, three herbicide treatments (aminopyralid (A), triclopyr ester (T), and A + T) and a non-sprayed control were applied to split plots in August 2012. Douglas-fir seedlings were planted in early 2013, and microclimate and seedling performance were monitored through 2016. During the growing seasons of 2012–2014, soil water content was greater and soil temperature was lower under heavy debris than under light debris. Survival of planted Douglas-fir seedlings declined an average of 45 and 11 percentage points after intense summer droughts in 2015 and 2016, respectively, but it averaged 7–10 percentage points greater in heavy debris than in light debris during this period. Douglas-fir stem diameter growth was consistently greater in heavy debris than in light debris, with the exception of treatment A + T where diameter did not differ between debris treatments. A reciprocal regression model (R2 = 0.55) predicted that total stem volume of Douglas-fir increased from 19 to 84 dm3 ha−1 as Scotch broom cover decreased from 20% to 0% as a result of the logging debris and herbicide treatments. There were limited treatment effects on mineral soil chemical and physical properties, but forest floor mass and nutrient content were increased in the heavy debris treatment. Five years after forest harvesting (2016), logging debris mass in heavy debris differed little from that in light debris at study initiation, indicating a substantial reduction in fuels and the potential for severe wildfire. Results suggest that, on gravelly soils and possibly other droughty forest ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest, heavy debris will benefit planted Douglas-fir by improving growing conditions and by limiting abundance of nonnative competitors, such as Scotch broom.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Financial support for this research was provided by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, Special Technology Development Program (grant number R6-2011-02 ) and the U.S.D.A. National Institute for Food and Agriculture (Grants.gov number: GRANT11325729 ). We wish to thank Green Diamond Resource Company for use of their land and logistical support, especially Randall Greggs, Rick Brooker, and Eric Schallon. Thanks also to Vanelle Peterson, Dow AgroSciences, Inc. and Bruce Alber, Wilbur-Ellis Company, Inc., for providing expert advice and chemical products for the herbicide treatments. Special thanks to James Dollins and Jessyka Williams for technical assistance with the research.
- Coarse woody debris
- Competition threshold
- Scotch broom