Sustainable forestry relies on science-based evidence to determine silvicultural practices that maintain ecological integrity while attaining adequate timber production. Green-tree retention harvesting is used to preserve biodiversity by retaining live mature trees in harvested stands, which is believed to mimic structural diversity resulting from natural disturbance. There are many options to consider in the application of variable retention harvesting including the spatial pattern and amount of retained trees. Green-tree retention harvesting combined with prescribed burns could potentially mimic wildfires more effectively than harvesting alone. The purpose of this project is to have a better understanding of the effects of different green-tree retention treatments on understory vegetation and mammals 15 years post-harvest.
Research is being conducted at the large-scale “Ecosystem Management Emulating Natural Disturbance” variable retention harvesting experiment located in northwest Alberta. Preliminary results suggest that the effects of retention pattern on vegetation are attenuated at higher retention levels. Prescribed burning post-harvest benefits some fire-adapted species with these effects still observable more than a decade after harvest. Motion-triggered wildlife cameras and fecal pellet surveys are being used to determine differences in mammal activity. Data collection for mammals is still ongoing. Collaborations with industry and government partners will enable research findings to be used to help identify optimal partial harvesting guidelines for sustainable forest management.