Over the past two decades, partial harvesting has been increasingly used in boreal forests as an alternative to clearcutting to promote irregular stand structures and maintain a balance between biodiversity preservation and continued timber production. However, relatively little is still known about the silvicultural potential of partial harvesting in Canada’s boreal forest, especially in areas prone to organic matter accumulation (paludification), and most prior research has focused on biodiversity responses. In this study, we assess the effects of partial harvesting on stand development (recruitment, growth, and mortality) ten years after harvesting in previously unmanaged black spruce stands and quantify its effectiveness in reducing the impacts on ecosystem structures. Our analyses revealed that pre-harvest stand structure and site characteristics, especially initial basal area, sapling density, tree diameter, and organic layer thickness (OLT) were major factors involved in stand development ten years following these partial harvesting treatments. Depending on pre-harvest structure and site characteristics, partial harvesting can result in either an increase in post-harvest tree recruitment and growth or a loss of stand volume because of standing tree mortality. To increase the chances of partial harvesting success in ensuring an increase in decennial stand yield after harvest in black spruce forest stands, sites prone to paludification (i.e., where OLT >17 cm) should be left unharvested. This study illustrates the importance of taking into account pre-existing structure and site characteristics in the selection of management strategies to maximize the potential of partial harvesting to achieve sustainable forest management in black spruce stands.
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