Legacy effects of logging on boreal forest understorey vegetation communities in decadal time scales in northern Finland
Publication date: 15 March 2019
Source: Forest Ecology and Management, Volume 436
Author(s): Lauralotta Muurinen, Jari Oksanen, Ilkka Vanha-Majamaa, Risto Virtanen
We followed how forest thinning, repeated twice during a period of 93 years, altered understorey plant community composition, affected the succession of forest understorey vegetation and the accumulation of logs in the long-term. The study was carried out in northern Finland by resampling 20 permanent experimental plots, established after a wildfire in 1920. Understorey vegetation was inventoried in 1961, 1986 and 2013 with forest thinning treatments done in 1953 and 1987, using four and three different harvesting intensities, respectively. We found succession to override the effects of forest logging until the latest study period (2013). We observed negligible long-term effects of logging on understorey communities during the two mid-successional stages (1961, 1986), when the forest was 41 and 66 years old respectively. The impacts of logging on understorey vegetation were strongest in the latest successional stage (2013), the forest being at the age of 93 years. In the latest successional stage (2013) logged plots had less coarse woody debris than unlogged plots. Forest management thus influenced the key feature for forest biodiversity and potential habitats for endangered species. These findings are of major interest since the studies of long-term impacts of less intensive forest management practices are scarce. Our results suggest that in addition to possible immediate impacts, harvesting treatments have legacy effects (subtle or delayed inherited effects of forestry in the past) that influence the forest understorey vegetation community composition and the amount of coarse woody debris. This finding deserves special attention when planning of species conservation, multiple use of forests and sustainable forestry.
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