Canadian Forest Service Publications

Impact of salvage logging on stand structure and beetle diversity in boreal balsam fir forest, 20 years after a spruce budworm outbreak. 2013. Norvez, O.; Hébert, C.; Bélanger, L. For. Ecol. Manag. 302:122-132.

Year: 2013

Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 34714

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

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Spruce budworm outbreaks represent the most important natural disturbance in the boreal balsam fir (Abies balsamea (L.) Mill.) forest of Canada, killing trees over wide areas and thus generating large amounts of dead wood. This disturbance is part of the dynamic processes occurring within balsam fir forests, and its effects on biodiversity need to be understood in order to move closer towards sustainable forest management. We described stand structure and used beetles as biodiversity indicators to compare the ecological value of salvaged stands, managed afterwards with three different silvicultural treatments, with unsalvaged stands, 20 years after the last spruce budworm outbreak. Our experimental design involved five replicated stands of each of the four disturbance types for a total of 20 stands. A total of 3124 Coleoptera belonging to 47 families and 269 taxa were captured over 3 months of sampling. Results showed that habitat attributes still differed 20 years after a spruce budworm outbreak between unsalvaged and treated salvaged stands, such as more abundant and diverse dead wood in unsalvaged stands. Salvage logging and silvicultural treatments led to different beetle communities than in unsalvaged stands, even though abundance and richness did not change significantly. Most indicator species identified were saproxylic and associated with unsalvaged stands, suggesting salvage logging generated the largest changes to the original ecosystem while additional effects of the silvicultural treatments were less pronounced. This may result from the 67% reduction in downed dead wood volumes (e.g., 138 m3/ha in unsalvaged stands vs 46 m3/ha in managed stands). Even if this volume of dead wood is still relatively high, it is less diverse than in unsalvaged stands and includes almost no recent dead wood. Salvage logging affected saproxylic beetle communities, suggesting that the retention of naturally disturbed stands may help in implementing ecosystem management in boreal balsam fir forest and move closer towards sustainable management.

Plain Language Summary

Spruce budworm outbreaks are the most significant natural disturbances to occur in Canadian balsam fir stands. In Quebec, a severe outbreak that ended at the beginning of the 1990s devastated millions of hectares of forest, and intensive salvage logging operations subsequently took place. Twenty years later, researchers compared the effects of three silvicultural treatments performed after the salvage logging with control stands.

The first effect of salvage logging is on forest structure: it diminishes the quantity of dead wood by two thirds on average. Not only is dead wood less abundant, it also features less variable levels of decomposition. This has a negative impact on the diversity of beetles, a group of insects associated with dead wood.

Microdisturbances generated during forest treatments after salvage logging (e.g. site preparation activities for planting) also weaken beetle diversity levels. Salvage logging plans should therefore ensure:

  1. that a sufficient number of stands affected by spruce budworm are preserved in order to maintain a sufficient quantity and quality of dead wood, and
  2. that forest development activities in salvaged stands favour the return to their natural dynamics.