Variation in logging debris cover influences competitor abundance, resource availability, and early growth of planted Douglas-fir

Timothy B. Harrington, Robert A Slesak, Stephen H. Schoenholtz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Scopus citations

Abstract

Logging debris remaining after timber harvest can modify the microclimate and growing conditions for forest regeneration. Debris also can influence tree seedlings indirectly through its effects on development of competing vegetation, although the mechanisms are poorly understood. At two sites in Washington and Oregon (USA) that differed in availability of soil water and nutrients, mechanisms were studied by which logging debris and competing vegetation interacted to influence performance of planted Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco var. menziesii) seedlings. In a split-plot design, two levels of competing vegetation (presence and absence) and three covers of logging debris (0%, 40%, and 80%) were replicated eight times at each site on 2. ×. 2-m areas centered on individual Douglas-fir seedlings. Vegetation abundance, seedling growth, and resource availability were monitored for 4. years (2005-2008). Soil water depletion was lower and Douglas-fir water potential and foliar nitrogen were higher in the absence of competing vegetation, resulting in increased seedling growth. The highest seedling growth rates and foliar nitrogen contents occurred where absence of vegetation was combined with 80% debris cover. Where competing vegetation was present, 40% debris cover was associated with decreases in herb cover and soil water depletion and increases in seedling growth relative to 0% or 80% debris covers. At the Washington site where soil quality was lower, the combination of presence of vegetation and 80% debris cover was associated with a 2.4. °C average reduction in summer soil temperatures at 15. cm depth, reduced foliar nitrogen content, and the slowest rates of seedling growth. Potential effects of logging debris, such as mulching (i.e., reduced evaporation of soil water) and interception loss (i.e., reduced precipitation inputs), were minor to non-detectable from sensors buried at 20-40. cm soil depth. Results of the research suggest that retention of moderate levels of logging debris (i.e., 40% cover) after forest harvesting in the Pacific Northwest is likely to increase early growth of Douglas-fir by increasing soil water availability through reduced herb abundance. Where intensive vegetation control is practiced, retention of higher debris levels (i.e., 80% cover) may provide further benefits to seedling growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-52
Number of pages12
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Volume296
DOIs
StatePublished - May 5 2013

Keywords

  • Microclimate
  • Soil productivity
  • Vegetation management

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