Searching for biodiversity gains through woodfuel and forest management.

Published online
04 Dec 2013
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Fuller, R. J.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
Europe & Western Europe


Woodfuel extraction from established woods and forests is promoted in Western Europe as a renewable energy source. Woodfuel management is mainly carried out by silvicultural thinning or short-rotation harvesting, including coppicing. Potential negative effects include reduction in habitat quality for saproxylic species. However, in some regions, habitats may be improved for species that have declined as a result of increased shading. Resources required by most of these species are more likely to be delivered by short-rotation management than thinning. Relatively little is documented on the effects of thinning intensity on ecological resources and biodiversity within European forests. Trade-offs between canopy cover, deer browsing pressure and understorey complexity are likely to occur. Therefore, interactions between thinning treatments and deer browsing potentially affect biodiversity, in the context of both woodfuel and timber production. Synthesis and applications. Woodfuel management is unlikely to deliver benefits for most shade-intolerant species unless it creates substantial areas of young-growth with low deer impacts. However, more research is needed on thinning as a potential conservation tool. Changing climate and tree diseases are creating an uncertain future for forest management. It is timely for ecologists to work with forest managers to identify how integrated forestry and deer management can deliver positive and balanced biodiversity outcomes.

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