Canadian Forest Service Publications

Can a trait-based multi-taxa approach improve our assessment of forest management impact on biodiversity? 2013. Aubin, I.; Venier, L.; Pearce, J.; Moretti, M. 2013. Biodiversity and Conservation. 22:2957-2975.

Year: 2013

Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 35131

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Mark record


Harvest impact on forest biodiversity has been widely studied, but for managers confronted with a need for integrated cross-taxa assessment, application remains a significant challenge. Using post-harvest boreal forest succession as a model system, we investigate the usefulness of a trait-based multi-taxa approach to improve our understanding of the community dynamics after disturbance. We assess the strength of response to forest harvesting and recovery patterns of four taxa with contrasting attributes (vegetation, carabids, spiders and birds) along a post-harvest chronosequence of jack pine stands in the boreal forests of Canada. We used a complementary set of functional and taxonomic diversity metrics to identify commonalities and dissimilarities in the community assembly processes and sensitivities to harvesting among taxa. Despite the overall similarity of community response for most pairs of taxa and metrics, the strength of cross-taxa congruency varied greatly among metrics, illustrating the complexity of taxa response to harvest as well as the necessity of including a variety of biodiversity metrics in impact assessments. Of the four selected taxa, spiders were found the most sensitive to harvesting,with a strong response to environmental changes after harvest and a slow community recovery process. Birds and carabids showed highly congruent response patterns, with a strong response to harvest followed by a marked recovery process. Ground vegetation was the most resilient to harvesting. We discuss the management implications of these contrasting recovery processes, outline the current limitations of this method and suggest steps toward the implementation of effective integrated multi-taxa monitoring programs.

Plain Language Summary

The functional trait approach has been developed to understand of plant communities by simplifying each species into a suite of characteristics that matter for ecosystem processes. We investigate the possibility of expanding this approach by applying the same technique to animal groups as well as plants. We use a post-harvest boreal stand as a model system and consider together the plant, beetle, spider and bird community changes over a 20 year successional gradient. We find that by setting aside the traditional concept of species and focusing on their common moveable parts, we are able to arrive at a higher resolution in our conclusions on post-harvest biodiversity dynamics than if we had considered each taxon individually. Overall, we conclude that a multi-taxa trait-based approach gives a comprehensive picture of biodiversity and community recovery. The technique shows promise as a guide for managers, notably in the selection of indicator species, but several steps must still be taken before this can become widely feasible.