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Cumulative Effects of Disturbances on Soil Nutrients: Predominance of Antagonistic Short-Term Responses to the Salvage Logging of Insect-Killed Stands

  • Christine Martineau
  • Julien Beguin
  • Armand Séguin
  • David ParéEmail author


Nutrient cycling generally recovers rapidly following disturbance in forest ecosystems. Concerns have been expressed that the resilience of this function may be altered by enhanced disturbance frequency, and especially by the use of salvage logging. A sudden hemlock looper (Lambdina fiscellaria) outbreak in a boreal forest leading to tree mortality in discrete patches allowed us to evaluate the impact of disturbance type (logging vs insect defoliation) as well as the cumulative effects of both disturbances (that is, salvage logging of defoliated sites) on soil nutrients, providing a rare opportunity to test for interactions between these two disturbances. We assessed, within 2–3 years following treatments, whether both individual disturbances had distinct effects on soils properties and whether their cumulative effects were either additive, synergistic or antagonistic. Defoliation generally increased the soil nutrient concentrations, especially of soluble nitrogen forms, when compared to the undisturbed controls. The spatial heterogeneity of soil nutrient concentrations was also much greater in defoliated stands than in the other treatments. Logging alone had an effect that was less variable and generally of lower amplitude than defoliation. Contrary to what was expected, salvage logging led to soil properties that were more similar to those of undisturbed controls, indicating that antagonistic interactions occurred. Our results showed that, under the conditions of this study, salvage logging could reduce the potential for soil nutrient leaching and lead to more homogenous soil conditions. These results bring new light on the effect of cumulative disturbances and could be useful to guide post-disturbance forest management decisions.


hemlock looper insect outbreak insect defoliation cumulative disturbances salvage logging resilience soil carbon soil nitrogen soil nutrients 



We thank Sébastien Dagnault for his contributions. The GIS analysis that he performed as well as the validation that he conducted in the field was very useful to the set-up of the experimental design. We thank Sébastien Dagnault and Fanny Michaud for conducting field and laboratory work and Serge Rousseau for conducting the laboratory analyses. We also wish to thank Sanatan Das Gupta of Northern Forestry Centre, Canadian Forest Service, for insightful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 14458 kb)


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Copyright information

© Her majesty the Queen in right of Canada 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine Martineau
    • 1
  • Julien Beguin
    • 1
  • Armand Séguin
    • 1
  • David Paré
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Natural Resources CanadaCanadian Forest ServiceStn. Sainte-FoyCanada

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