Interior Alaska boreal forest is still largely intact and forest harvest management, if applied appropriately across the forest landscape, can potentially mitigate the effects of climate warming, such as increasing wildfire and decreasing mature tree growth. Background and Objectives:
This study examines historical relationships between forest growth and harvest in central boreal Alaska over the last 40 years in order to contribute to the development of sustainable forest harvesting practices. Materials and Methods:
We compiled data from forest inventory and forest harvest and reforestation databases and analyzed harvesting intensity relative to growth. Results:
Forest harvest management has relied heavily on natural regeneration due to a small profit margin. We found that volume harvested in the last 40 years was lower than volume growth; however, harvest activity was concentrated on the small road-accessible area and in the mature white spruce type. As a result, harvest activities need to be distributed geographically and by species in a way that prevents reduction of forest productivity or loss of ecosystem services. An expansion of the road network, or a shift in harvesting and utilization from white spruce to broadleaf would allow a significant increase in sustainable wood yield. Conclusions:
There are two potential areas that could provide increased harvest, which contain a large amount of white spruce, birch, and aspen. Under rapid climate change, sustainable forest harvest management must consider the effects of fires, such as needs of salvage logging and a potential reduction of harvestable timber volumes due to damages. Forest harvest management could emulate natural fire disturbance and help reduce fuel amounts to prevent intensive and large-scale fires in the future in areas where fires are most aggressively suppressed.
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