Effects of tree retention and woody biomass removal on bird and small mammal communities

Alexis R. Grinde, Robert A. Slesak, A. W. D'Amato, B. P. Palik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Contemporary forest management is increasingly focused on maintaining ecosystem function and services including biodiversity conservation. As a result, harvest guidelines related to retention of live trees and woody biomass (fine and coarse residue arising from harvesting) have been developed to provide benefits for wildlife, but there is much uncertainty on the effectiveness of these guidelines depending on stage of succession, retention levels, and focal taxa. We used an operational-scale, fully replicated factorial experiment to determine the effects of both tree retention (none, dispersed, aggregated) and woody residue harvesting (no removal, 20% retention, all removed) on breeding bird and small mammal communities in aspen forests 7–8 years after harvest. Bird community metric responses showed a clear and consistent positive response to tree retention; both tree retention configurations resulted in higher total abundance, increased diversity, and higher species richness compared to stands with no tree retention. There was no difference in community metrics between the retention configurations and no evidence that early successional species were negatively affected by tree retention. Total abundance of small mammals was lower in clear-cuts compared to tree retention treatments; moreover, clear-cut stands had lower species diversity compared to stands with the aggregated tree retention. There were limited effects of biomass harvest treatments on small mammal communities, likely because actual biomass removal was much lower than experimental targets. Overall, our results provide conclusive evidence on the continued benefits of tree retention on wildlife communities se0ven and eight years post-harvest in regenerating aspen forests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number118090
JournalForest Ecology and Management
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Avian
  • Biodiversity
  • Ecological forestry
  • Green tree
  • Populus tremuloides

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