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Complex impacts of logging residues on planted hybrid poplar seedlings in boreal ecosystems

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Abstract

We studied three hybrid poplar plantations in Quebec (Canada) established on sites with varying soil and environmental characteristics to investigate the effects of logging residues on the water potential, carbon isotope ratio and foliar nutrients of planted trees. On each site, four treatments representing different residue loads, as well as treatments aimed at manipulating specific factors of the environment (Herbicide, Geotextile) were applied to test their effects on seedling water potential, carbon isotope ratio and foliar nutrients. Along with analyses of variance, we used structural equation modelling to infer causal relationships of logging residues on height, basal diameter and foliar nutrition of trees through their effects on soil temperature, soil water content and competing vegetation cover. Logging residues decreased soil temperature at all sites and woody plants cover at one site out of three. Height, basal diameter and unit leaf mass were strongly related to each other. Foliar δ13C, N concentration and unit leaf mass increased with decreasing cover of woody plants suggesting an important role of competition for resources. Overall, logging residues had no direct influence on hybrid poplar dimensions after two growing seasons: their effects on the microenvironment of this resource demanding tree species were either cancelling out each other, or were not significant enough to have a significant impact on the growth drivers measured. For example, presence of logging residues might reduce soil temperature, impeding overall seedling performance. Our study highlights the fact that any given silvicultural method aimed at manipulating logging residues has a complex influence involving the interaction of multiple environmental drivers and that the net effect on tree productivity will depend on species and site specific conditions.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Sébastien Dagnault, Jacques Morissette, Fanny Michaud and William McGuire for field work, Serge Rousseau for laboratory analyses, and Dr. Marc J. Mazerolle and Dr. Bill Shipley for their assistance with statistical analyses. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Fonds de recherche du Québec—Nature et Technologie provided scholarships to ATP. We also acknowledge our industrial partners Domtar, Louisiana Pacific (Chambord OSB), and Norampac. The FRQNT and the Canadian Forest Service of Natural Resources Canada provided funding for the project.

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Correspondence to Evelyne Thiffault.

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Trottier-Picard, A., Thiffault, E., Thiffault, N. et al. Complex impacts of logging residues on planted hybrid poplar seedlings in boreal ecosystems. New Forests 47, 877–895 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11056-016-9550-8

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