A meta-analysis on the impacts of partial cutting on forest structure and carbon storage
- 1College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, and Key Laboratory for Earth Surface Processes of the Ministry of Education, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
- 2US Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center, Sioux Falls, South Dakota 57198, USA
- 3Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies, Contractor to the USGS EROS Center, Sioux Falls, South Dakota 57198, USA
Abstract. Partial cutting, which removes some individual trees from a forest, is one of the major and widespread forest management practices that can significantly alter both forest structure and carbon (C) storage. Using 748 observations from 81 studies published between 1973 and 2011, we synthesized the impacts of partial cutting on three variables associated with forest structure (mean annual growth of diameter at breast height (DBH), stand basal area, and volume) and four variables related to various C stock components (aboveground biomass C (AGBC), understory C, forest floor C, and mineral soil C). Results show that the growth of DBH increased by 111.9% after partial cutting, compared to the uncut control, with a 95% bootstrapped confidence interval ranging from 92.2 to 135.9%, while stand basal area and volume decreased immediately by 34.2% ([−37.4%, −31.2%]) and 28.4% ([−32.0%, −25.1%]), respectively. On average, partial cutting reduced AGBC by 43.4% ([−47.7%, −39.3%]), increased understory C storage by 391.5% ([220.0%, 603.8%]), but did not show significant effects on C stocks on forest floor and in mineral soil. All the effects, if significant (i.e., on DBH growth, stand basal area, volume, and AGBC), intensified linearly with cutting intensity and decreased linearly over time. Overall, cutting intensity had more strong impacts than the length of recovery time on the responses of those variables to partial cutting. Besides the significant influence of cutting intensity and recovery time, other factors such as climate zone and forest type also affected forest responses to partial cutting. For example, a large fraction of the changes in DBH growth remains unexplained, suggesting the factors not included in the analysis may play a major role. The data assembled in this synthesis were not sufficient to determine how long it would take for a complete recovery after cutting because long-term experiments were scarce. Future efforts should be tailored to increase the duration of the experiments and balance geographic locations of field studies.