Retention forestry influences understory diversity and functional identity
Curzon, MT and Kern, CC and Baker, SC and Palik, BJ and Da Amato, AW, Retention forestry influences understory diversity and functional identity, Ecological Applications, 30, (5) Article e02097. ISSN 1051-0761 (2020) [Refereed Article]
In recent decades, a paradigm shift in forest management and associated policies has led to greater emphasis on harvest practices that retain mature, overstory trees in forest stands that would otherwise be clear-cut. While it is often assumed that the maintenance of compositional and structural complexity, such as that achieved through retention forestry approaches, will also mitigate negative impacts to functional diversity, empirical evidence of this relationship is sparse. We examined the effects of an aggregated retention system on taxonomic and functional diversity in a regenerating aspen-dominated forest. Sampling was conducted along transects arranged to capture the transition from harvested (regenerating) forest to mature, unharvested forest (both intact forest stands and 0.1 ha retention aggregates). We then assessed the magnitude and distance of edge effects on multiple indices of taxonomic and functional diversity as well as functional identity. Twelve years after harvest, the distance and magnitude of edge effects on functional and taxonomic diversity did not differ between the two unharvested patch sizes (intact vs. aggregate); however, intact forest exhibited greater resistance to edge effects and greater depth of edge influence into harvested areas for some traits compared to aggregates. Analyses relying on functional traits were generally applicable across sites within a highly variable forest type, and our results demonstrate the promise of using functional traits to assess management impacts on plant diversity across a landscape. Aggregates maintained some functional attributes associated with interior forest and influenced adjacent regeneration. However, trends in some traits (i.e., shade tolerance and seed mass), particularly in the seedling layer, suggest aggregates of this size provide primarily edge habitat.