Assessment of Biodiversity at Different Stages of the Forest Cycle

G. Smith, G. Gittings, M. Wilson, L. French, Anne Oxbrough, S. O'Donoghue, J. Pithon, V. O'Donnell, A-M McKee, S. Iremonger, J. O'Halloran, D. Kelly, F. Mitchell, P. Giller, T. Kelly

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The main objectives of this project were to: 1. Assess the range of biodiversity in representative forests at key stages of the forest cycle; 2. Review possibilities for enhancement of biodiversity in plantation forests and make recommendations; 3. Assess the effectiveness of the Forest Biodiversity Guidelines in light of the results of this study. Over the forest cycle, ash and Sitka spruce plantations can support diverse vegetation, spider, hoverfly and bird assemblages. These assemblages contain a large proportion of generalist species and we recorded few species of conservation importance. However, mature stands can develop a characteristic woodland flora and support forest specialist spiders and hoverflies. The various taxonomic groups showed different trends in total species richness across the forest cycle, but highest species richness generally occurs either at the beginning or the end of the forest cycle. High species richness in the pre-thicket stage is probably associated with the persistence of species associated with the preplanting habitats and should not necessarily be interpreted as a positive contribution by plantation forestry to biodiversity conservation. We, therefore, emphasise the importance of the mature stages for biodiversity, especially as the biodiversity of forest-associated species tends to be highest in this stage.Forest type generally did not have a major effect on biodiversity and there were few differences in overall species richness between ash and Sitka spruce. Ash sites > 50 yr old did have distinctive vegetation, spider and hoverfly assemblages, but did not tend to have higher species richness (even of forest-associated species) compared to the mature Sitka spruce sites. Comparison of the assemblages in the ash and Sitka spruce components of mixed sites does indicate that adding ash to a Sitka spruce plantation increases biodiversity at the plantation scale. We have made fifteen recommendations for forest planning and management practices that will maintain and/or enhance biodiversity in plantation forests. Twelve of these recommendations will require modifications to the Forest Service’s Forest Biodiversity Guidelines. Most of these management recommendations will benefit more than one taxonomic group. Other management recommendations are specific to particular taxonomic groups, but in no cases do we believe that the management recommendations for one group conflict with those for another group.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationUniversity College Cork
PublisherUniversity College Cork
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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