Recent emphasis on increasing structural complexity and species diversity reflective of natural ecosystems through the use of retention harvesting approaches is coinciding with increased demand for forest-derived bioenergy feedstocks, largely sourced through the removal of harvest residues associated with whole-tree harvest. Uncertainties about the consequences of such approaches prompted us to examine the combined impacts of aggregated overstory retention and harvest residue retention on the composition and density of regeneration following biomass harvests on four operational-scale (40 ha) study areas dominated by Populus tremuloides Michx. in northern Minnesota. Whole-tree harvest had no statistically significant effects on initial (2-year) regeneration densities, including root suckers, sprouts, and seedlings relative to conventional, stem-only harvest. The density of shrub stems was also unaffected by harvest residue retention. Despite having a lower mean leaf area index than intact forest controls, aggregates maintained comparable densities of the four most common tree species, individually, as well as all tree species combined. The composition of regeneration within aggregates differed from surrounding harvested areas as expected, but this increase in complexity at the stand scale was achieved without diminishing P. tremuloides densities in the edge area (0–5 m) surrounding aggregates 2 years after harvest. These initial findings suggest even small aggregates of overstory reserves may achieve basic objectives related to structural complexity and sustaining shade-tolerant tree species in harvested units without compromising regeneration objectives for less tolerant species.
Curzon, Miranda T.; D’Amato, Anthony W.; Palik, Brian J. 2017. Early regeneration response to aggregated overstory and harvest residue retention in Populus tremuloides (Michx.)-dominated forests. New Forests. 48(5): 719-734. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11056-017-9585-5.