Impact of Biomass Harvesting on Forest Soil Productivity in the Northern Rocky Mountains

Biomass harvesting extracts an increased amount of organic matter from forest ecosystems over conventional harvesting. Since organic matter plays a critical role in forest productivity, concerns of potential negative long-term impacts of biomass harvesting on forest productivity (i.e., changing nutrient/water cycling, aggravating soil properties, and compaction) have emerged. There is abundant prediction of long-term impacts of intensive biomass removal on forest productivity. However, the empirical knowledge and comprehensive understanding, especially on western forests, are limited thus far. Therefore, we utilize the available findings to evaluate potential impacts of increased biomass extraction on western forests. We compare biomass harvesting with natural disturbance regimes or conventional harvesting systems in terms of organic matter redistribution in order to evaluate the possible consequences of biomass harvesting on forest productivity. We review the role of organic matter on forest productivity and compare the organic matter redistribution or removal through biomass harvesting and natural disturbances or conventional harvesting to assess potential impacts. The summarized findings are: (1) the long-term impacts of intensive biomass harvesting will be mitigated by protection of the belowground organic matter; (2) biomass harvesting could result in the accelerated leaching of nutrients; and (3) immediate understory vegetation recovery can minimize potential negative impacts. Finally, sites sensitive to harvesting impacts (e.g., fine-textured soil and steep slopes) should be approached with caution and prior planning to minimize undesirable responses.

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Related Topics:
1. Feedstocks
2. Transportation, Logistics and Pre-Conversion
5. Biofuels & Co-Products
6. Sustainability

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