European Journal of Forest Research

, Volume 137, Issue 3, pp 337–348 | Cite as

Temporal changes of understory plant community in response to pre- and post-harvesting herbicide treatments and partial cutting in aspen-dominated boreal mixedwood stands

  • Rongzhou Man
  • F. Wayne Bell
Original Paper


In response to concerns about the effects of traditional timber harvesting practices on biodiversity, we examined the effects of alternative silvicultural systems, including partial cutting and modified herbicide use on understory plant communities in an aspen-dominated mixedwood stand. These alternative silvicultural systems match disturbance rates that, based on the intermediate disturbance hypothesis, would support more diverse understory vegetation communities than uncut or clear-cut forests treated with a broadcast spray. Our results indicated that both understory vegetation cover and number of plant species increased at 5 and 10 years after timber harvesting in aspen-dominated boreal mixedwood stands. The highest amount of understory vegetation cover were found in the pre-harvesting herbicide spray treatment areas, likely because understory plants were not directly exposed to the herbicide, whereas the most species occurred in the partial cutting treatment, which represented the most diverse stand structure with both harvested and leave corridors. Understory composition by percent cover of individual species at 10 years post-harvesting was affected by all treatment attributes (i.e., level of harvesting removal, type and time of herbicide application, and mechanical site preparation); however, understory vegetation responded the most to harvesting level. Among treatments, the difference in understory composition was largely attributed to changes in understory species of different shade tolerance.


Biodiversity Cover and number of species Understory composition Glyphosate Disturbance 



We thank B. MacDonald, J. Rice, D. Niblett, S. Stuart, J. Schnare, M. Beaudoin, S. Fleming, M. Roberts, C. Andrews, and G. Fuss of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF) for their involvement in study establishment and data collection. We also thank the project partners, Domtar Inc. (Timmins) and Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada (FERIC), for their input and support during development and implementation of the study. Jennifer Dacosta, Lisa Buse, and Mya Rice of OMNRF and five anonymous reviewers provided constructive comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. Funding was provided by the Ontario Living Legacy Trust, the Ontario Forestry Futures Trust, and OMNRF.


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Copyright information

© Crown 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ontario Ministry of Natural ResourcesOntario Forest Research InstituteSault Ste. MarieCanada

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