Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

William S. Keeton


Forest management practices emphasizing stand structural complexity are of interest across the northern forest region of the United States because of their potential to enhance carbon storage. Our research is nested within a long-term study evaluating how silvicultural treatments promoting late-successional forest characteristics affect aboveground biomass development in northern hardwood forests. We are testing the hypothesis that biomass development (carbon storage) will be greater in structural complexity enhancement (SCE) treatments when compared to conventional uneven-aged treatments. SCE treatments were compared against selection systems (single-tree and group) modified to retain elevated structure. Manipulations and controls were replicated across 2-hectare treatment units at two study areas in Vermont, USA. Data on aboveground biomass pools (live trees and coarse woody material, standing dead and downed wood) were collected pre- and post-harvest then again a decade later in 2013. Species group-specific allometric equations were used to estimate live and standing dead biomass and downed log biomass was estimated volumetrically. We used Forest Vegetation Simulator to project "no-treatment" baselines specific to treatment units, allowing measured carbon responses to be normalized relative to differences in site-specific characteristics and pre-treatment conditions.

Results indicate that 10 years post-harvest biomass development and carbon storage were greatest in SCE treatments compared to conventional treatments, with the greatest increases in coarse woody material (CWM) pools. Structural complexity enhancement treatments contained 12.67 Mg ha-1 carbon in CWM compared to 6.62 Mg ha-1 in conventional treatments and 8.84 Mg ha-1 in areas with no treatment. Percentage differences between post-harvest carbon and baseline values indicate that carbon pool values in SCE treatments returned closest to pre-harvest or untreated levels over conventional treatments. Total carbon storage in SCE aboveground pools was 15.90% below baseline conditions compared to 44.94% less in conventionally treated areas (P = 0.006). Results from CART models indicated treatment as the strongest predictor of aboveground C storage followed by site-specific variables, suggesting a strong influence of both on carbon pools. Structural enhancement treatments have potential to increase carbon storage in managed northern hardwoods based on these results. They offer an alternative for sustainable management integrating carbon, associated climate change mitigation benefits, and late-successional forest structure.



Number of Pages

92 p.