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Research article2017Peer reviewed

Does the harvest of logging residues and wood ash application affect the mobilization and bioavailability of trace metals?

Olsson, Bengt A.; Akerblom, Staffan; Bishop, Kevin; Eklof, Karin; Ring, Eva


Residue biomass from conventional forestry, such as slash (i.e., tree tops and branches) and stumps, are used at an increasing rate for energy purposes in Sweden. This review examined current knowledge on how extraction of forest biomass for large-scale energy production, including the practice of ash application for nutrient recycling, influences the mobility and stocks of trace metals in the forest environment at different time scales. The study focussed on Swedish energy production systems and contemporary forest management practices, as well as the heavy metals lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd) and mercury (Hg). The historic accumulation of these elements in forest soils has mainly originated from diffuse, long-term atmospheric deposition.There is little conclusive evidence that slash harvest generally increases the risk for mobilization of trace metals from soils during the regeneration phase, compared with stem-only harvesting. However, microbial transformation of mercury into the highly toxic methyl mercury (MeHg) species is facilitated in suboxic soil conditions that may increase during the regeneration,phase. Therefore it has been hypothesized that stump harvest could result in increased mercury methylation and transport to surface waters, owing to stump harvest effects on soil physical conditions and hydrological pathways. The few studies available on the stump harvest effects of Hg showed no consistent difference in runoff from clear felled and stump harvested catchments compared to clear-felled and soil-scarified catchments in terms of concentrations or fluxes of MeHg.Assuming that the highest trace metal concentrations in wood ash recommended by the Swedish Forest Authority are not exceeded, wood ash application does not currently increase metal loads at the national scale, because trace metal export in harvested biomass is much larger than that returned in wood ash. The net load of Pb, Cd, and Cu will not increase at the local scale if ash doses do not greatly exceed the compensation for nutrients exported in harvested biomass. Biomass harvest and ash application have negligible effects on the load of mercury to forest soils.A large number of studies have examined the effects of wood ash on trace metal content in soil, water and biota. Most studies showed no effect of wood ash application. When increased concentrations were found (Cd, Cr, Cu, Zn), this was in soils where concentrations remained well below harmful levels. Relatively fewer reports of increased concentrations are reported for soil water and plants, and no effects were reported for edible berries or fungi. (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Bioenergy; Cadmium; Mercury; Lead; Stump harvesting

Published in

Forest Ecology and Management
2017, Volume: 383, pages: 61-72
Publisher: Elsevier