Date of Award

2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Natural Resources

First Advisor

William S. Keeton

Abstract

Temperate forests are an important carbon sink, yet there is uncertainty regarding land-use history effects on biomass accumulation and carbon storage potential in secondary forests. Understanding long-term biomass dynamics is important for managing forests as carbon sinks and for co-benefits such as watershed protection and biodiversity. However there are many unanswered questions regarding these dynamics in northeastern U.S. forests: How have secondary forests of the U.S. Northeast recovered post nineteenth century agricultural abandonment? How has the region's extensive land-use history influenced long-term structural development and aboveground carbon storage? To answer these questions, we employed a longitudinal study based on twelve years of empirical data (2001-2013) from the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller (MBR) National Historical Park in Woodstock, VT. MBR Park was the first parcel of land to actively be reforested in the eastern U.S., and as such, its diverse forest mosaic reflects a history of alternate reforestation approaches and varied successional trajectories indicative of secondary forest recovery occurring across the broader northeastern forest landscape. We also used 150 years of documentary data from park management records. This research evaluates the effects of reforestation approaches (planting vs. natural regeneration), management regimes (long-term low-to-intermediate harvest intensities at varied harvest frequencies), and stand development pathways on biomass outcomes. We generated biometrics representative of stand structural complexity, including the H' structural diversity index, and aboveground biomass (live trees, snags, and downed coarse woody debris pools) estimates. Multivariate analyses evaluated the predictive strength of reforestation approach, management history, and site characteristics relative to aboveground carbon pools and stand structural complexity.

Classification and Regression Tree (CART) analysis ranked reforestation approach (plantation or natural regeneration) as the strongest predictor of long-term mean total aboveground carbon storage, while harvest frequency, and stand age were selected as secondary variables. CART ranked forest percent conifer (a metric closely associated with reforestation approach) as the strongest predictor of H' index, while harvest intensity, and harvest frequency were selected as secondary variables. Increases in harvest intensity can significantly reduce aboveground carbon storage. Our results suggest that a variety of long-term recovery pathways converge on high levels of aboveground carbon storage, including both conifer plantations and naturally regenerated hardwood stands, but choice of silvicultural management approach can dramatically alter those trajectories. Importantly, total aboveground biomass (i.e., carbon) co-varied with H' (r2 = 0.25), and thus, our dataset showed a positive relationship between forest carbon storage and structural complexity, supporting the concept of multifunctional forestry emphasizing late-successional habitats.

Language

en

Number of Pages

112 p.