Canadian Forest Service Publications

A review of the long-term effects of post-harvest silviculture on vertebrate wildlife, and predictive models, with an emphasis on boreal forests in Ontario, Canada. 2003. Thompson, I.D.; Baker, J.A.; Ter-Mikaelian, M.T. Forest Ecology and Management 177: 441-469.

Year: 2003

Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 21497

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

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Greater fibre yields may be possible in commercial forests through an increased application of post-harvest silvicultural techniques. In Canadian boreal forests, while basic silvicultural regeneration techniques such as planting, seeding, scarifying, and tending, have been employed since the 1940's, more intensive techniques (intensive forest management (IFM)) such as increased area planted, pre-commercial and commercial thinning, extra tending events, fertilizing, and short rotations may soon be used. There may be effects of basic and more intensive silviculture on biodiversity in the long-term, compared to natural regeneration following logging or especially stand development following natural disturbances. We reviewed approximately 50 papers that reported studies of the long-term effects of post-harvest silviculture on vertebrate wildlife. In particular, large impacts to biodiversity universally occur when native forest types are replaced by rapidly-growing exotic tree species. However, in boreal forests, native tree species are usually planted, and so any effects on associated wildlife communities may be considerably less than in non-native species plantations. Limited long-term information is available, but published studies of effects of basic silviculture and IFM suggested that loss of structures in forest stands was an important common impact that resulted in vertebrate species responses. Fewer structural features in managed forests compared to in natural forests likely results in reduced numbers of animal species dependent on those structures, such as cavity-using species and species for which large decaying woody debris is important. Simplifying stand structures and species composition may result in systems with low connectivity, making them vulnerable to insect and mammalian herbivory. Concentration of IFM in stands on highly productive sites could exacerbate effects (positive or negative), owing to the positive relationship between forest productivity and animal and plant diversity. Species such as black-backed woodpeckers (Picoides arcticus) may be reduced over large areas by stand conversion to mixedwoods, stand structural changes and especially age-class truncation. On the other hand, IFM may contribute increased habitats to species favoring young to mature coniferous-dominated forests, that normally decline across a landscape following clearcutting in boreal mixed and upland conifer stands. An aspatial model, based on published and local information and expert opinion, suggested that IFM and post-harvest silviculture in Ontario's boreal forests would produce positive and negative species-specific effects on the vertebrates that we modeled. However, IFM appeared to result in little increased effect over basic post-harvest silviculture. We also expect that stand-level effects of IFM on species would accumulate through time over landscapes, as more stands come under intensive management and the level of effects will be cumulative.