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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/17267

Title: Clearcut Solutions? An Evaluation of Partial Harvesting in the Black Spruce Boreal Forest
Authors: Thorpe, Hilary Claire
Advisor: Thomas, Sean C.
Caspersen, John
Department: Forestry
Keywords: alternative silviculture
black spruce
boreal forest
dendrochronology
growth response
natural disturbance emulation
neighbourhood analysis
partial harvesting
simulation modelling
tree mortality
Issue Date: 26-Feb-2009
Abstract: Bringing together field-based empirical studies, a simulation modelling experiment, and a critical analysis of the natural disturbance emulation paradigm, this thesis evaluates partial harvesting in the black spruce boreal forest. Forest management in Ontario is required to emulate natural disturbances, but in regions of the boreal forest where fire cycles are long, regulated even-aged management by clearcutting has truncated forest age-class distributions. Partial harvesting has been proposed as a means to maintain the structural complexity and biodiversity associated with old forests while allowing continued timber production. Despite the potentially important role of partial harvesting in a strategy for sustainable boreal forest management, little research has examined post-harvest stand development, a critical determinant both of habitat and timber supplies.I used a chronosequence approach in combination with dendroecological techniques, a neighbourhood modelling framework, and maximum likelihood statistical methods to quantify stand dynamics over the first decade after partial harvest in the black spruce (Picea mariana) boreal forest of northeastern Ontario, Canada. Residual trees displayed large but time-lagged growth responses to partial harvest. The largest responses were found in young trees, while old trees were largely unable to react to improved post-harvest resource availability. Growth responses were offset by elevated rates of residual-tree mortality, which peaked in the first year after harvest at nearly 13 times the pre-harvest level. Proximity to harvest machinery trails severely escalated the risk of mortality for residual trees. Considering growth and mortality responses together in a forest simulator model, I found that stand development proceeded most rapidly where skidding intensity was reduced and retention areas were aggregated. Given appropriate prescriptions, my results indicate that partial harvesting can be a viable silvicultural option for black spruce boreal forests. However, the ability of partially harvested stands to emulate natural disturbance is questionable, particularly given the strong influence of harvest machinery impacts on post-harvest stand development. I argue that the natural disturbance emulation framework has important flaws and falls short of a justifiable approach for forest management in Ontario.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/17267
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Faculty of Forestry - Doctoral theses

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