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Long-term management impacts on carbon storage in Lake States forests

Formally Refereed
Authors: Matthew Powers, Randall Kolka, Brian Palik, Rachel McDonald, Martin Jurgensen
Year: 2011
Type: Miscellaneous Publication
Station: Northern Research Station
Source: Forest Ecology and Management. 262(3): 424-431.


We examined carbon storage following 50+ years of forest management in two long-term silvicultural studies in red pine and northern hardwood ecosystems of North America’s Great Lakes region. The studies contrasted various thinning intensities (red pine) or selection cuttings, shelterwoods, and diameter-limit cuttings (northern hardwoods) to unmanaged controls of similar ages, providing a unique opportunity to evaluate long-term management impacts on carbon pools in two major North American forest types. Management resulted in total ecosystem carbon pools of 130-137 Mg ha-1 in thinned red pine and 96-177 Mg ha-1 in managed northern hardwoods compared to 195 Mg ha1 in unmanaged red pine and 224 Mg ha-1 in unmanaged northern hardwoods. Managed stands had smaller tree and deadwood pools than unmanaged stands in both ecosystems, but management had limited impacts on understory, forest floor, and soil carbon pools. Total carbon storage and storage in individual pools varied little across thinning intensities in red pine. In northern hardwoods, selection cuttings stored more carbon than the diameter-limit treatment, and selection cuttings generally had larger tree carbon pools than the shelterwood or diameter-limit treatments. The proportion of total ecosystem carbon stored in mineral soil tended to increase with increasing treatment intensity in both ecosystems, while the proportion of total ecosystem carbon stored in the tree layer typically decreased with increasing treatment intensity. When carbon storage in harvested wood products was added to total ecosystem carbon, selection cuttings and unmanaged stands stored similar levels of carbon in northern hardwoods, but carbon storage in unmanaged stands was higher than that of thinned stands for red pine even after adding harvested wood product carbon to total ecosystem carbon. Our results indicate long-term management decreased on-site carbon storage in red pine and northern hardwood ecosystems, but thinning intensity had little impact on carbon storage in red pine while increasing management intensity greatly reduced carbon storage in northern hardwoods. These findings suggest thinning to produce different stand structures would have limited impacts on carbon storage in red pine, but selection cuttings likely offer the best carbon management options in northern hardwoods.


Carbon storage, Long-term studies, Northern hardwoods, Red pine, Silviculture


Powers, Matthew; Kolka, Randall; Palik, Brian; McDonald, Rachel; Jurgensen, Martin. 2011. Long-term management impacts on carbon storage in Lake States forests. Forest Ecology and Management. 262(3): 424-431.