Plant and Soil

, Volume 364, Issue 1–2, pp 39–54 | Cite as

Wildfire and forest harvest disturbances in the boreal forest leave different long-lasting spatial signatures

  • Miren LorenteEmail author
  • William F. J. Parsons
  • Eliot J. B. McIntire
  • Alison D. Munson
Regular Article



Natural disturbances leave long-term legacies that vary among landscapes and ecosystem types, and which become integral parts of successional processes at a given location. As humans change land use, not only are immediate post-disturbance patterns altered, but the processes of recovery themselves are likely altered by the disturbance. We assessed whether short-term effects on soil and vegetation that distinguish wildfire from forest harvest persist over 60 years after disturbance in boreal black spruce forests, or post-disturbance processes of recovery promote convergence of the two disturbance types.


Using semi-variograms and Principal Coordinates of Neighbour Matrices, we formulated precise, a priori spatial hypotheses to discriminate spatial signatures following wildfire and forest harvest both over the short- (16–18 years) and long-term (62–98 years).


Both over the short- and the long-term, wildfire generated a wide spectrum of responses in soil and vegetation properties at different spatial scales, while logging produced simpler patterns corresponding to the regular linear pattern of harvest trails and to pre-disturbance ericaceous shrub patches that persist between trails.


Disturbance by harvest simplified spatial patterns associated with soil and vegetation properties compared to patterns associated with natural disturbance by fire. The observed differences in these patterns between disturbance types persist for over 60 years. Ecological management strategies inspired by natural disturbances should aim to increase the complexity of patterns associated with harvest interventions.


Black spruce boreal forest Ecosystem management Forest disturbance Land-use legacies Spatial modelling 



We gratefully acknowledge support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC Discovery grant to A.D. Munson; NSERC Strategic grant to A.D. Munson, C.M. Preston, R.L Bradley and J.W. Shipley). We thank E. Allard, A. Beaumont, S. Boivin-Chabot, and M. Vachon for their help with fieldwork.

Supplementary material

11104_2012_1331_MOESM1_ESM.doc (223 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 223 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miren Lorente
    • 1
    Email author
  • William F. J. Parsons
    • 2
  • Eliot J. B. McIntire
    • 1
  • Alison D. Munson
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Forest ResearchUniversité LavalQuébecCanada
  2. 2.Département de BiologieUniversité de SherbrookeSherbrookeCanada

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