Thinning effects on forest productivity: Consequences of preserving old forests and mitigating impacts of fire and drought Public Deposited

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  • Background: Management strategies have been proposed to minimise the effects of climate change on forest resilience. Aims: We investigated the Pacific Northwest US region forest carbon balance under current practices, and changes that may result from management practices proposed for the region’s 34 million ha of forests to mitigate climate change effects. Methods: We examined the relationship between NPP and biomass, using plot data, and estimated the effects of proposed clear-cut harvest of young mesic forests for wood products and bioenergy while preserving mesic mature/old forests for biodiversity (Sparing), thinning all forests (Sharing), and a combination of sparing mesic mature and old, clearing mesic young, and thinning dry forests (Sparing/Sharing). Results: The forests of the region were found highly productive (NPP 163 Tg C year⁻¹) and a strong carbon sink with NEP of 45 Tg C year⁻¹. Observations indicated the relationship between NPP and biomass was not significantly different for thinned versus unthinned stands, after accounting for site quality and precipitation effects. After simulating proposed management to mitigate climate change, regional NPP was reduced by 35% (Sparing), 9% (Sharing), and 29% (Sparing/Sharing) compared with current practices. Conclusions: Applying management practices appropriate for current forest conditions to mitigate future climate change impacts can be accomplished, but at a cost of reducing NPP. Sparing all forests >50 years old resulted in the largest NPP reduction, but the impact could be reduced by clearing only a subset of young forests.
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  • Law, B., Hudiburg, T., & Luyssaert, S. (2013). Thinning effects on forest productivity: Consequences of preserving old forests and mitigating impacts of fire and drought. Plant Ecology & Diversity, 6(1), 73-85. doi:10.1080/17550874.2012.679013
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  • 6
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  • 1
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  • This research was supported by the Office of Science (BER), US Department of Energy (DOE, Grant no. DE-FG02-07ER64361), for the North American Carbon Program study, "Integrating Remote Sensing, Field Observations, and Models to Understand Disturbance and Climate Effects on the Carbon Balance of the West Coast U.S”. T.H. is funded by a DOE global change education program PhD fellowship (GREF). S.L. is funded by ERC Starting Grant 242564.
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