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Harvard Forest Data Archive


Timber Harvesting Study in North Quabbin Region of Central Massachusetts 1984-2001

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  • Lead: David Kittredge, David Foster
  • Investigators: John Burk
  • Contact: Information Manager
  • Start date: 1984
  • End date: 2001
  • Status: complete
  • Location: North Central Massachusetts
  • Latitude: +42.0 to +42.7 degrees
  • Longitude: -72.8 to -71.8 degrees
  • Elevation:
  • Datum: WGS84
  • Taxa:
  • Release date: 2023
  • Language: English
  • EML file: knb-lter-hfr.46.21
  • DOI: digital object identifier
  • EDI: data package
  • DataONE: data package
  • Related links:
  • Study type: historical
  • Research topic: conservation and management; historical and retrospective studies; regional studies
  • LTER core area: disturbance patterns, land use and land cover change, human-environment interactions
  • Keywords: conservation, forest disturbance, land use, timber harvest
  • Abstract:

    Although the northeastern U.S. includes extensive areas of aggrading forest, uncertainty regarding the intensity and pattern of forest harvesting hampers an understanding of important ecological processes and characteristics such as carbon and nitrogen storage, habitat quality, and forest dynamics, and impedes regional conservation and management planning. Due to the complex ownership pattern dominated by thousands of non-industrial private forest (NIPF) owners and the difficulty of detecting selective logging using remote sensing, details of the harvesting regime remain largely unknown to the scientific and policy communities. To examine the value of statewide regulatory data for Massachusetts as a unique source of this critical information, we analyzed 17 years of timber harvest data gathered for regulatory purposes for a 168,000-ha forested landscape in Massachusetts that is the focus of concerted conservation planning and intensive study of landscape and ecosystem pattern and process. The North Quabbin Region is heavily wooded with a complicated ownership pattern dominated by over 2,500 NIPF owners, three state agencies, and diverse conservation and municipal holdings.

    The extent and intensity of harvesting were surprising, with an annual disturbance rate of 1.5% and a mean intensity of 44.7 m3 ha-1 (approximately one-fourth of average stand volume). The predominant form of harvesting was selective removal of commercially valuable tree sizes, grades and species (e.g., Quercus rubra and Pinus strobus). The spatial pattern of logging was random with regards to major physical, biological, or cultural factors. However, logging was strongly related to landowner class. NIPF owners control 60% of the forest area and were responsible for 64.1% of harvest area, but the highest logging intensity (volume per area harvested; 69.3 m3 ha-1) among major landowners was conducted by the state agency responsible for managing southern New England's largest conservation property, the watershed of Boston's drinking reservoir.

    This regime of chronic disturbance is occurring over the entire landscape and exerting a major influence on forest composition, dynamics, and habitat quality. However, dispersed selective harvesting is largely unnoticed by residents, is routinely overlooked by ecologists and conservationists, and would remain unrecognized in the absence of this previously unused regulatory data. These results identify the value of regional regulatory spatial information to estimate ecological trends and to assist in conservation planning. Given similarities among ownership and forest patterns for much of the northeastern U.S., we expect that the broad findings of this study to have regional application.

  • Methods:

    Since the early 1980s, a Forest Cutting Plan (FCP) is required by Massachusetts law for any timber harvest greater than 25 Mbf or 50 cords (or any combination thereof). This project analyzed timber harvesting data from FCPs for the North Quabbin region for the period 1984-2001.

  • Organization: Harvard Forest. 324 North Main Street, Petersham, MA 01366, USA. Phone (978) 724-3302. Fax (978) 724-3595.

  • Project: The Harvard Forest Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program examines ecological dynamics in the New England region resulting from natural disturbances, environmental change, and human impacts. (ROR).

  • Funding: National Science Foundation LTER grants: DEB-8811764, DEB-9411975, DEB-0080592, DEB-0620443, DEB-1237491, DEB-1832210.

  • Use: This dataset is released to the public under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (No Rights Reserved). Please keep the dataset creators informed of any plans to use the dataset. Consultation with the original investigators is strongly encouraged. Publications and data products that make use of the dataset should include proper acknowledgement.

  • License: Creative Commons Zero v1.0 Universal (CC0-1.0)

  • Citation: Kittredge D, Foster D. 2023. Timber Harvesting Study in North Quabbin Region of Central Massachusetts 1984-2001. Harvard Forest Data Archive: HF046 (v.21). Environmental Data Initiative:

Detailed Metadata

hf046-01: timber harvest

  1. year: fiscal year in which forest cutting plan (FCP) was received by Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management (DEM)
  2. date: date on which FCP was received by DEM
  3. county: county
    • FR: Franklin
    • WO: Worcester
    • HS: Hampshire
  4. town1: name of town where forest harvest occurred
  5. town2: name of second town if forest harvest overlapped town boundary
  6. polygons: number of separate polygons in FCP (unit: number / missing value: NA)
  7. acres: harvest area in acres (unit: acre / missing value: NA)
  8. mbf: estimated volume to be removed in thousand board feet (unit: cubicInch / missing value: NA)
  9. cds: estimated volume to be removed in cords (unit: cord / missing value: NA)
  10. tons: estimated volume to be removed in tons (unit: ton / missing value: NA)
  11. wetlands: presence of wetlands on harvest site
    • N: no
    • Y: yes
  12. obj: primary objective of harvest
    • NA: NA
    • 1: wood production
    • 2: short-term income
    • 3: wildlife habitat
    • 4: aesthetics & recreation
    • 5: soil & water management
    • 6: other
  13. obj2: second objective of harvest
    • NA: NA
    • 1: wood production
    • 2: short-term income
    • 3: wildlife habitat
    • 6: other
  14. obj3: third objective of harvest
    • NA: NA
    • 1: wood production
    • 2: short-term income
    • 3: wildlife habitat
    • 4: aesthetics & recreation
    • 5: soil & water management
    • 6: other
  15. owner: owner type
    • 1: DEM or other Mass agencies
    • 2: MDC (Massachusetts District Commission)
    • 3: local agencies
    • 4: nonprofits
    • 5: private owners
    • 6: sawmill companies
    • 7: federal agencies
  16. public: public land
    • N: no
    • Y: yes
  17. area.m2: harvest area in square meters calculated with ArcView (unit: squareMeter / missing value: NA)
  18. area.ha: harvest area in hectares calculated with ArcView (unit: hectare / missing value: NA)
  19. area.acres: harvest area in acres calculated with ArcView (unit: acre / missing value: NA)
  20. tcords: total volume in cords calculated from Cds and Tons. Tcords = Cds + (Tons/2.5). (unit: cord / missing value: NA)
  21. tmbf: total volume in thousand board feet calculated from Tcords and Mbf. Tmbf = Mbf + (Tcords/2). (unit: cubicInch / missing value: NA)
  22. tvol: total volume in cubic meters calculated from Tmbf. Tvol-m3 = 3.4804*Tmbf. (unit: cubicMeter / missing value: NA)
  23. hi.m3: harvest intensity in cubic meters removed per hectare (unit: meterCubedPerHectare / missing value: NA)
  24. hi.mbf: harvest intensity in thousand board feet removed per acre (unit: thousandBoardFootPerAcre / missing value: NA)