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Impacts of Alternative Harvesting and Natural Disturbance Scenarios on Forest Biomass in the Superior National Forest, USA

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Russell, Matthew ; Patton, Stephanie ; Wilson, David ; Domke, Grant ; Frerker, Katie

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The amount of biomass stored in forest ecosystems is a result of past natural disturbances, forest management activities, and current structure and composition such as age class distributions. Although natural disturbances are projected to increase in their frequency and severity on a global scale in the future, forest management and timber harvesting decisions continue to be made at local scales, e.g., the ownership or stand level. This study simulated potential changes in natural disturbance regimes and their interaction with timber harvest goals across the Superior National Forest (SNF) in northeastern Minnesota, USA. Forest biomass stocks and stock changes were simulated for 120 years under three natural disturbance and four harvest scenarios. A volume control approach was used to estimate biomass availability across the SNF and a smaller project area within the SNF (Jeanette Project Area; JPA). Results indicate that under current harvest rates and assuming disturbances were twice that of normal levels resulted in reductions of 2.62 to 10.38% of forest biomass across the four primary forest types in the SNF and JPA, respectively. Under this scenario, total biomass stocks remained consistent after 50 years at current and 50% disturbance rates, but biomass continued to decrease under a 200%-disturbance scenario through 120 years. In comparison, scenarios that assumed both harvest and disturbance were twice that of normal levels and resulted in reductions ranging from 14.18 to 29.85% of forest biomass. These results suggest that both natural disturbances and timber harvesting should be considered to understand their impacts to future forest structure and composition. The implications from simulations like these can provide managers with strategic approaches to determine the economic and ecological outcomes associated with timber harvesting and disturbances.


forest management; natural disturbance; timber harvest; biomass; Minnesota


Russell, Matthew; Patton, Stephanie; Wilson, David; Domke, Grant; Frerker, Katie. 2018. Impacts of Alternative Harvesting and Natural Disturbance Scenarios on Forest Biomass in the Superior National Forest, USA. Forests. 9(8): 491-. 11 p.

Last updated on: September 6, 2022