The effects of forest harvest intensity in combination with wind disturbance on carbon dynamics in Lake States Mesic Forests

Robert M. Scheller, Dong Hua, Paul V Bolstad, Richard A. Birdsey, David J. Mladenoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


Total forest carbon (C) storage is determined by succession, disturbances, climate, and the edaphic properties of a site or region. Forest harvesting substantially affects C dynamics; these effects may be amplified if forest harvesting is intensified to provide biofuel feedstock. We tested the effects of harvest intensity on landscape C using a simulation modeling approach that included C dynamics, multiple disturbances, and successional changes in composition. We developed a new extension for the LANDIS-II forest landscape disturbance and succession model that incorporates belowground soil C dynamics derived from the CENTURY soil model. The extension was parameterized and calibrated using data from an experimental forest in northeastern Wisconsin, USA. We simulated a 9800 ha forested landscape over 400 years with wind disturbance combined with no harvesting, harvesting with residual slash left on site ('standard harvest'), and whole-tree harvesting. We also simulated landscapes without wind disturbance and without eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) to examine the effects of detrital quantity and quality on C dynamics. We estimated changes in live C, detrital C, soil organic C, total C, and forest composition. Overall, the simulations without harvesting had substantially greater total C and continued to sequester C. Standard harvest simulations had more C than the whole tree harvest simulations. Under both harvest regimes, C accrual was not evident after 150 years. Without hemlock, SOC was reduced due to a decline in detritus and a shift in detrital chemistry. In conclusion, if the intensity of harvesting increases we can expect a corresponding reduction in potential C storage. Compositional changes due to historic circumstances (loss of hemlock) may also affect forest C although to a lesser degree than harvesting. The modeling approach presented enabled us to consider multiple, interacting drivers of landscape change and the subsequent changes in forest C.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-153
Number of pages10
JournalEcological Modelling
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 10 2011


  • Biofuels
  • CENTURY soil model
  • Disturbance interactions
  • Forest harvesting
  • Harvest intensity
  • Soil organic carbon


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