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Lasting legacies of historical clearcutting, wind, and salvage logging on old-growth Tsuga canadensis-Pinus strobus forests


Emma Sass

Anthony D'Amato

David Foster

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Secondary Title:
Forest Ecology and Management


Disturbance events affect forest composition and structure across a range of spatial and temporal scales, and subsequent forest development may differ after natural, anthropogenic, or compound disturbances. Following large, natural disturbances, salvage logging is a common and often controversial management practice in many regions of the globe. Yet, while the short-term impacts of salvage logging have been studied in many systems, the long-term effects remain unclear. We capitalized on over eighty years of data following an old-growth Tsuga canadensis-Pinus strobusforest in southwestern New Hampshire, USA after the 1938 hurricane, which severely damaged forests across much of New England. To our knowledge, this study provides the longest evaluation of salvage logging impacts, and it highlights developmental trajectories for Tsuga canadensis-Pinus strobus forests under a variety of disturbance histories. Specifically, we examined development from an old-growth condition in 1930 through 2016 across three different disturbance histories: (1) clearcut logging prior to the 1938 hurricane with some subsequent damage by the hurricane ("logged"), (2) severe damage from the 1938 hurricane ("hurricane"), and (3) severe damage from the hurricane followed by salvage logging ("salvaged"). There were no differences in current overstory composition between the different disturbance histories, as most areas shifted strongly away from pre-hurricane composition through nearly complete elimination of P. strobus and corresponding increases in hardwoods (Betula and Acer spp.), while T. canadensis remained dominant. In contrast, eight decades later, structural characteristics remain distinct between logged, hurricane, and salvaged sites. Specifically, trees were larger in the logged and salvaged sites, and pit and mound structures were largest and most abundant in the hurricane site. Tree densities and coarse woody debris biomass was greater in the hurricane site than the logged sites, but not significantly different from salvaged sites. These findings underscore the long-term influence of salvage logging on forest development, indicating convergence in overstory composition over time between logged, salvaged, and non-salvaged areas, but persistent structural differences, especially in microtopographic structures and live tree development. Future salvage logging efforts should consider these impacts and provide a greater range of unsalvaged areas across the landscape to maintain important structural legacies over the long term.