Based on an extensive dataset from the Forest Database of Southern Poland, we tested whether forest management practices affect species composition in forest ecosystems. In this study we focused on communities of broadleaved ravine forests that are spatially limited to specific habitat conditions, including steep rocky slopes with skeletal soil and unstable ground. Ravine forests play an important role as biodiversity hotspots and contribute to the protection of soil and water resources. Due to high biodiversity and limited economic value, most stands of ravine forest have been subject to extensive management or have remained unmanaged. Ravine forests are a subject of frequent natural disturbances due to being located on unstable ground on steep slopes, and thus constitute a very interesting study system. We hypothesized that the low intensity forest management that was commonplace until recently outside protected areas had an effect similar to natural disturbances of low to moderate magnitudes.

 

The paper presents the results of this study, is entitled No difference in plant species diversity between protected and managed ravine forests and has been just published. Below you can read the abstract and links to the fulltext.

Abstract: The influence of management practices on forest ecosystems is usually analyzed by a comparison of species composition and richness. Different types of management practices increase plant species richness, mainly due to an increase in the number of ruderal and open habitat species. So far, most of the studies have been performed in the forest types that were most common in the studied regions. In this study we focused on broadleaved ravine forests that are spatially limited to specific habitat conditions, including steep rocky slopes with skeletal soil and unstable ground. These forests are local biodiversity hotspots, and, due to limited accessibility, have been subject to only limited management practices, mainly removal of single trees. We collected a dataset of 215 plots sampled between 1991 and 2015 in both managed forests and protected areas. We used multivariate techniques to compare the differences in the overall species composition. In addition , we compared differences in diversity, structural and habitat indices to find any possible differences. There were no differences in both the plot level and accumulative species richness and diversity indices between protected and managed forests. In addition, a comparison of habitat conditions and different ecological groups, including ruderal and open habitat species, alien species and ancient forest indicator species also revealed no differences. The only significant differences between the protected and managed forests related to the evenness and shrub cover. We concluded that low intensity forest management in ravine forests resembles natural disturbances, which are characteristic of natural ravine forests. The species composing these communities are adapted to frequent natural disturbances and thus forest management did not influence significant habitat conditions. However, to fully understand the effect of these practices on biodiversity, a comparison of structural characteristics is needed.

Direct link to the paper in Forest Ecology and Management

Link to the paper on ResearchGate

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