Long-Term (24-Year) Effects of Harvest Disturbances on Ecosystem Productivity and Carbon Sequestration in Tupelo-Cypress Swamps in the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta

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Virginia Tech


Due to the paucity of long-term harvest impact data, the primary goals of this study were to quantify the long-term effects of different harvest disturbances twenty-four years after harvest on two major wetland functions: stand productivity and C storage. This study evaluated the effects of three harvest types that were originally applied in 1986 to a tupelo (Nyssa aquatic)-cypress (Taxodium distichum) forested wetland in the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta of southwestern Alabama. Treatments were: 1. Helicopter harvest (HELI), 2. Skidder simulation where 50% of the site was rutted to a depth of 30 cm (SKID), and 3. Helicopter harvest followed by glyphosate herbicide removal of all sprouts and seedbank regeneration for two years following harvest (GLYPH). An adjacent mature stand (94 years old) within the same original composition represented mature forest or pre-harvest reference conditions (REF). Above- and belowground plant biomass, belowground woody debris, soil C, and soil CO2 efflux were measured. Twenty-four years after treatments were applied, forest C levels were higher in SKID treatments (206.1 Mg C ha-1) than in HELI treatments (168.7 Mg C ha-1). GLYPH treatments are holding less (144.2 Mg C ha-1) while REF areas hold 332.6 Mg C ha-1. SKID treatments are also holding the most biomass of all treatments with 243.2 Mg ha-1 of overstory biomass. Ecosystem C and biomass patterns indicate HELI and SKID are becoming similar to the original site conditions represented by the REF areas. The resiliency of these highly disturbed stands are explained by the frequent inputs of non-compacted sediments, presence of species well adapted to very poorly drained and aerated conditions, high rates of coppice regeneration, shrink-swell ameliorative properties of the soil and creation of more complex microtopography within SKID treatments.



Forested wetlands, timber harvest disturbances, tupelo-cypress biomass, aboveground and belowground carbon storage