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Open AccessArticle

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
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Scott X. Chang and Xiangyang Sun
Forests 2016, 7(12), 308;
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)
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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James, J.; Harrison, R. The Effect of Harvest on Forest Soil Carbon: A Meta-Analysis. Forests 2016, 7, 308.

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