Ecosystems

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 271–283 | Cite as

Effects of Harvesting Forest Biomass on Water and Climate Regulation Services: A Synthesis of Long-Term Ecosystem Experiments in Eastern North America

  • Jesse Caputo
  • Colin M. Beier
  • Peter M. Groffman
  • Douglas A. Burns
  • Frederick D. Beall
  • Paul W. Hazlett
  • Thad E. Yorks
Article

Abstract

Demand for woody biomass fuels is increasing amidst concerns about global energy security and climate change, but there may be negative implications of increased harvesting for forest ecosystem functions and their benefits to society (ecosystem services). Using new methods for assessing ecosystem services based on long-term experimental research, post-harvest changes in ten potential benefits were assessed for ten first-order northern hardwood forest watersheds at three long-term experimental research sites in northeastern North America. As expected, we observed near-term tradeoffs between biomass provision and greenhouse gas regulation, as well as tradeoffs between intensive harvest and the capacity of the forest to remediate nutrient pollution. In both cases, service provision began to recover along with the regeneration of forest vegetation; in the case of pollution remediation, the service recovered to pre-harvest levels within 10 years. By contrast to these two services, biomass harvesting had relatively nominal and transient impacts on other ecosystem services. Our results are sensitive to empirical definitions of societal demand, including methods for scaling societal demand to ecosystem units, which are often poorly resolved. Reducing uncertainty around these parameters can improve confidence in our results and increase their relevance for decision-making. Our synthesis of long-term experimental studies provides insights on the social-ecological resilience of managed forest ecosystems to multiple drivers of change.

Keywords

forest biomass ecosystem services water regulation climate regulation tradeoff analysis forest recovery 

Supplementary material

10021_2015_9928_MOESM1_ESM.docx (22 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 23 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jesse Caputo
    • 1
  • Colin M. Beier
    • 1
  • Peter M. Groffman
    • 2
  • Douglas A. Burns
    • 3
  • Frederick D. Beall
    • 4
  • Paul W. Hazlett
    • 4
  • Thad E. Yorks
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Forest and Natural Resources ManagementSUNY College of Environmental Science and ForestrySyracuseUSA
  2. 2.Cary Institute of Ecosystem StudiesMillbrookUSA
  3. 3.U.S. Geological SurveyTroyUSA
  4. 4.Natural Resources CanadaCanadian Forest ServiceSault Ste. MarieCanada
  5. 5.Environmental Biology ProgramCazenovia CollegeCazenoviaUSA

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