Composition, Stand Structure, and Biomass Estimates of “Willow Rings” on the Canadian Prairies.

Mirck, J. and Schroeder, W.R. (2013). "Composition, Stand Structure, and Biomass Estimates of “Willow Rings” on the Canadian Prairies.", BioEnergy Research, 6(3), pp. 864-876. doi : 10.1007/s12155-013-9338-z  Access to full text


Many small wetlands are scattered across the Canadian Prairies. These wetlands are often surrounded by a ring of phreatophytic shrubs, of which willows are the dominant genus. Even though many of these willow rings are currently degraded, due to the lack of disturbance factors such as prairie wild fires and bison herds, they are still of great value as a biomass resource without carbon debt. Our study had the objectives to (1) study the distribution of five native willows (Salix bebbiana, Salix discolor, Salix eriocephala, Salix interior, and Salix petiolaris) in 12 willow wetland communities in relation to a moisture gradient and (2)examine the effects of age of the willow ring on biomass potential, stand structure, and species distribution. Annual biomass production ranged from 1.9 to 16.2 odt ha1 year1 for the 12 sites that were between 9 and 34 years old. Current standing biomass for the 12 willow rings with a total area of 1.5 ha was estimated at 239.2 odt. With age, stand structure changed from multiple small-diameter stems to fewer large-diameter stems, and at the same time the species distribution shifted from one dominated by S. petiolaris to one being dominated by S. discolor. Additionally, the sympatric willows showed a distribution along a moisture gradient, with S. eriocephala, S. interior, and S. petiolaris in moist locations and S. bebbiana and S. discolor in drier locations.

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