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Forests 2016, 7(12), 308; doi:10.3390/f7120308

The Effect of Harvest on Forest Soil Carbon: A Meta-Analysis

School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, Box 352100, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
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Academic Editors: Scott X. Chang and Xiangyang Sun
Received: 28 September 2016 / Revised: 30 November 2016 / Accepted: 2 December 2016 / Published: 7 December 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nutrient Cycling and Plant Nutrition in Forest Ecosystems)
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Abstract

Forest soils represent a substantial portion of the terrestrial carbon (C) pool, and changes to soil C cycling are globally significant not only for C sequestration but also for sustaining forest productivity and ecosystem services. To quantify the effect of harvesting on soil C, we used meta-analysis to examine a database of 945 responses to harvesting collected from 112 publications from around the world. Harvesting reduced soil C, on average, by 11.2% with 95% CI [14.1%, 8.5%]. There was substantial variation between responses in different soil depths, with greatest losses occurring in the O horizon (−30.2%). Much smaller but still significant losses (−3.3%) occurred in top soil C pools (0–15 cm depth). In very deep soil (60–100+ cm), a significant loss of 17.7% of soil C in was observed after harvest. However, only 21 of the 945 total responses examined this depth, indicating a substantial need for more research in this area. The response of soil C to harvesting varies substantially between soil orders, with greater losses in Spodosol and Ultisol orders and less substantial losses in Alfisols and Andisols. Soil C takes several decades to recover following harvest, with Spodosol and Ultisol C recovering only after at least 75 years. The publications in this analysis were highly skewed toward surface sampling, with a maximum sampling depth of 36 cm, on average. Sampling deep soil represents one of the best opportunities to reduce uncertainty in the understanding of the response of soil C to forest harvest. View Full-Text
Keywords: forest management; harvest; soil carbon; soil order; deep soil; meta-analysis forest management; harvest; soil carbon; soil order; deep soil; meta-analysis
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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James, J.; Harrison, R. The Effect of Harvest on Forest Soil Carbon: A Meta-Analysis. Forests 2016, 7, 308.

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