Canadian Forest Service Publications
Impacts of salvage logging on biodiversity: A meta-analysis. 2018. Thorn, S.; ...; Gauthier, S.; Hébert, C.; et al. J. Appl. Ecol. 55:279-289.
Available from: Laurentian Forestry Centre
Catalog ID: 38519
CFS Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)
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Logging to “salvage” economic returns from forests affected by natural disturbances has become increasingly prevalent globally. Despite potential negative effects on biodiversity, salvage logging is often conducted, even in areas otherwise excluded from logging and reserved for nature conservation, inter alia because strategic priorities for post-disturbance management are widely lacking.
A review of the existing literature revealed that most studies investigating the effects of salvage logging on biodiversity have been conducted less than 5 years following natural disturbances, and focused on non-saproxylic organisms.
A meta-analysis across 24 species groups revealed that salvage logging significantly decreases numbers of species of eight taxonomic groups. Richness of dead wood dependent taxa (i.e. saproxylic organisms) decreased more strongly than richness of non-saproxylic taxa. In contrast, taxonomic groups typically associated with open habitats increased in the number of species after salvage logging.
By analysing 134 original species abundance matrices, we demonstrate that salvage logging significantly alters community composition in 7 of 17 species groups, particularly affecting saproxylic assemblages.
Synthesis and applications. Our results suggest that salvage logging is not consistent with the management objectives of protected areas. Substantial changes, such as the retention of dead wood in naturally disturbed forests, are needed to support biodiversity. Future research should investigate the amount and spatio-temporal distribution of retained dead wood needed to maintain all components of biodiversity.
Plain Language Summary
In this study, the researchers showed that salvage logging following a natural disturbance considerably decreased tree biodiversity, no matter the species, and altered the composition of living communities, especially those that depend on dead trees. This is primarily caused by the reduction in the amount of dead wood following salvage logging. Moreover, the quality of the dead wood (i.e., the degree to which it is decomposed) may have additional effects on the species that rely on this resource.
To achieve these results, the researchers performed a meta-analysis involving species from 24 taxonomic groups.
The frequency and severity of natural disturbances have increased over the last decades, and it is likely that this trend will continue in the context of climate change. The results of this study suggest that trees affected by disturbances should be left intact during harvesting operations that follow major disturbances.
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