In many forest plantation ecosystems, concerns exist regarding nutrient removal rates associated with sustained whole-tree harvesting. In the coastal North American Pacific Northwest, we predicted the depletion risk of nitrogen (N), the region's most growth-limiting nutrient, for 68
intensively managed Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii [Mirb.] Franco) plantations varying widely in productivity. We projected stands to rotation age using the individual-tree growth model ORGANON and then calculated a stability ratio for each stand, defined as
the ratio of N removed during harvest to total site N store (soil and forest floor). We assigned a risk rating to each site based on its stability ratio under whole-tree and stem-only harvest scenarios. Under whole-tree harvest, 49% of sites were classified as potentially at risk of long-term
N depletion (i.e., ≥10% N store removed in harvest), whereas under stem-only harvest, only 24% of sites were at risk. Six percent and 1% of sites were classified as under high risk of N depletion (i.e., ≥30% N store removed in harvest) under whole-tree and stem-only harvest, respectively.
The simulation suggested that sites with <9.0 and <4.0 Mg ha−1 site N store are potentially at risk for long-term N depletion and productivity loss under repeated whole-tree and stem-only harvest, respectively. Sites with <2.2 and <0.9 Mg ha−1
site N store are at high risk of N depletion under whole-tree and stem-only harvest, respectively. The areas with the highest concentrations of at-risk sites were those with young, glacially derived soils on Vancouver Island, Canada, and in the Puget Sound region of Washington.