In this study we compared the effects of fire on understorey vegetation in the Québec southern boreal forest with effects of salvage-logging (clear-cutting after fire). All 61 400-m2 sampling sites were controlled for overstorey composition (Deciduous, Mixed and Coniferous) and disturbance type, which consisted of three fire impact severity (FIS) classes (Light, Moderate and Extreme) and two harvesting techniques (Stem-only and Whole-tree Harvesting). Percent-cover data of vegetation and post-disturbance environmental characteristics were recorded in the field during the first two years after fire as well as soil texture. Ordination of fire alone demonstrated that, on Coniferous sites, fire initiates a succession whereby the understorey Coniferous sites approaches that of Deciduous-Mixed sites, due to the release of the understorey from Sphagnum spp. dominance, this pattern being a function of FIS. On Deciduous-Mixed stands, increased FIS resulted in a transition from herb to shrub dominance. Ordination of all five disturbance types showed that the impact of salvage-logging on understorey composition was within the range of fire, but marginalized to the extreme end of the FIS spectrum. Variance partitioning demonstrated that overstorey and soil texture were the most important explanatory variables of fire alone, while disturbance type explained the largest independent fraction of understorey variation when salvage-logging was introduced. Salvage-logging also results in significant reductions in understorey abundance, richness and diversity, while indicator species analysis suggests that it favours meso-xerophytic to xeric species. Results are interpreted in light of shade-tolerance dynamics, forest floor disturbance and soil moisture regimes. Implications for sustainable forest management are discussed.
Nomenclature: Marie-Victorin (1995).
Abbreviations: CON = Coniferous site; DEC = Deciduous site: FIS = Fire impact severity; FIS-1 = Light FIS; FIS-2 = Moderate FIS; FIS-3; Extreme FIS; MIX = Mixed site; STEM = stem-harvesting; WTH = whole-tree harvesting.