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Open Access Research

Management Impacts on Forest Floor and Soil Organic Carbon in Northern Temperate Forests of the US

Coeli M Hoover

Author Affiliations

USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station, 271 Mast Road, Durham, NH 03824, USA

Carbon Balance and Management 2011, 6:17  doi:10.1186/1750-0680-6-17

Published: 29 December 2011

Abstract

Background

The role of forests in the global carbon cycle has been the subject of a great deal of research recently, but the impact of management practices on forest soil dynamics at the stand level has received less attention. This study used six forest management experimental sites in five northern states of the US to investigate the effects of silvicultural treatments (light thinning, heavy thinning, and clearcutting) on forest floor and soil carbon pools.

Results

No overall trend was found between forest floor carbon stocks in stands subjected to partial or complete harvest treatments. A few sites had larger stocks in control plots, although estimates were often highly variable. Forest floor carbon pools did show a trend of increasing values from southern to northern sites. Surface soil (0-5 cm) organic carbon content and concentration were similar between treated and untreated plots. Overall soil carbon (0-20 cm) pool size was not significantly different from control values in sites treated with partial or complete harvests. No geographic trends were evident for any of the soil properties examined.

Conclusions

Results indicate that it is unlikely that mineral soil carbon stocks are adversely affected by typical management practices as applied in northern hardwood forests in the US; however, the findings suggest that the forest floor carbon pool may be susceptible to loss.

Keywords:
forest carbon; northern hardwoods; forest management; partial harvest; clearcutting