Effects of silviculture on native tree species richness: interactions between management, landscape context and regional climate.

Published online
12 Jun 2013
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Martín-Queller, E. & Diez, J. M. & Ibáñez, I. & Saura, S.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
Mediterranean region & Spain


Patterns of forest biodiversity are shaped by a complex set of processes operating over different spatial scales. Climate may largely determine species richness at regional scales, but biotic interactions and disturbance events are known to be important at local scales. The interactions between these local and regional processes are poorly understood, complicating efforts to manage for biodiversity. In this study, we used Spanish forest inventory data, together with hierarchical Bayesian models, to analyse how different harvest intensities affect patterns of species richness in a 152 000 km2 area in central Spain. Particularly, we quantified the interacting effects of locally applied silvicultural disturbances, of those applied in the surrounding landscape, and of the regional climate on native tree species richness. Our study supports the overall hypothesis that a hierarchical set of processes influence species richness, with regional climate contributing to shape the impacts of local harvesting practices and other environmental variables (topography and productivity). In particular, we found that partial harvesting in both coniferous and broad-leaved Mediterranean forests may support greater tree species richness than complete harvesting and no management. However, this effect depended on the ecosystem and the surrounding landscape, being much less likely in semi-arid regions under water stress conditions and in landscapes dominated by managed forests (and particularly by completely harvested stands). In general, forest stands exhibited increased tree species richness when surrounded by species-rich riparian forests, probably due to metacommunity dynamics and/or ecological history (land uses) of the area. Synthesis and applications. The effects of forest management on local species richness were shaped by coarse climate conditions and by the type and extent of other management practices in the surrounding landscapes. Therefore, to develop effective forestry management plans that optimize local diversity, we need to (i) apply regionally tailored practices with lower harvest intensities in areas of greater hydric stress; (ii) avoid the extensive application of a single silvicultural system over large areas and (iii) preserve a mosaic of species-rich forests that can act as sources of colonizers to enrich the regenerating stands nearby.

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