You are here: NRS Home  / Research Programs / Sustaining Forests / Methods to conserve and enhance forest resources - Biodiversity / Impacts of harvesting forest residues for bioenergy on nutrient cycling and community assemblages in northern hardwood forests

Sustaining Forests

Impacts of harvesting forest residues for bioenergy on nutrient cycling and community assemblages in northern hardwood forests

Research Issue

[photo:] Whole-tree chipping operation by Michael J. Lietz
.The increasing demand to utilize slash for bioenergy purposes will compete with other ecological services forests provide.  Current site-level guidelines emphasize retaining large diameter coarse woody debris (CWD) based on many studies documenting the important role it plays in managing biodiversity and contributing to nutrient cycling.   However, little information exists to help guide land managers on appropriate levels of fine woody debris (<6 inch diameter) retention for biodiversity and nutrient cycling concerns.  Our goal is to investigate the impact of fine woody debris (FWD; <6 inches diameter) removal on nutrient availability and above and belowground community assemblages on rich soils under regenerating northern hardwood stands in Wisconsin. 

Our Research

We are evaluating the response of soil C:N ratios and species (i.e., forbs, tree regeneration, arthropods, and salamanders/frogs) abundance and diversity to four fine woody debris removal treatments (0%, 65%, and100% removal; control or no cut).  The study is located within northern hardwood harvest areas on the Lakewood/Laona District, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Wisconsin.  This research is funded in part by the Wisconsin FOCUS ON ENERGY program.

Expected Outcomes

Information gained in this study will provide timely support and guidance during the initial stages of officially establishing woody biomass harvesting guidelines for state and federal forested public lands within Wisconsin.  Results will also provide policy makers with scientific information they need to evaluate the trade-offs between harvesting woody biomass for energy use and other ecological services.    

Research Products

Donner, D.M.; Ribic, C.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; St. Pierre, M; Eklund, D.  2012.  Impacts of harvesting forest residues for bioenergy on nutrient cycling and community assemblages in northern hardwood forests, Wisconsin. Final Report, Environmental and Economic Research and Development Program, Wisconsin Focus on Energy, Project 3104-01-08. 38 pp.

Research Participants

Principal Investigator

  • Deahn M. Donner, US Forest Service, Northern Research Station - Landscape Ecologist

Research Partners

  • Ron Zalesny, US Forest Service Northern Research Station - Research Plant Geneticist
  • Matthew St. Pierre, US Forest Service – Wildlife Biologist, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Rhinelander, WI
  • Eklund, Daniel, US Forest Service – Forest Biologist, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Park Falls, WI
  • Ribic, Christine, US Geological Survey, Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of WI – Madison, Madison, WI

Last Modified: November 30, 2016