Sharing land via keystone structure: Retaining naturally regenerated trees may efficiently benefit birds in plantations

Ecological Applications
By: , and 



Meeting food/wood demands with increasing human population and per-capita consumption is a pressing conservation issue, and is often framed as a choice between land sparing and land sharing. Although most empirical studies comparing the efficacy of land sparing and sharing supported land sparing, land sharing may be more efficient if its performance is tested by rigorous experimental design and habitat structures providing crucial resources for various species––keystone structures––are clearly involved. We launched a manipulative experiment to retain naturally regenerated broad-leaved trees when harvesting conifer plantations in central Hokkaido, northern Japan. We surveyed birds in harvested treatments, unharvested plantation controls and natural forest references one-year before the harvest and for three consecutive post-harvest years. We developed a hierarchical community model separating abundance and space-use (territorial proportion overlapping treatment plots) subject to imperfect detection to assess population consequences of retention harvesting. Application of the model to our data showed that retaining some broad-leaved trees increased total abundance of forest birds over the harvest rotation cycle. Specifically, pre-harvest survey showed that the amount of broad-leaved trees increased forest bird abundance in a concave manner (i.e., in a form of diminishing-return). After harvesting, a small amount of retained broad-leaved trees mitigated negative harvesting impacts on abundance though retention harvesting reduced the space-use. Nevertheless, positive retention effects on the post-harvest bird density as the product of abundance and space-use exhibited a concave form. Thus, small profit reductions were shown to yield large increases in forest bird abundance. The difference in bird abundance between clear-cutting and low amounts of broad-leaved tree retention increased slightly from the first to second post-harvesting years. We conclude that retaining a small amount of broad-leaved trees may be a cost-effective on-site conservation approach for the management of conifer plantations. Retention of 20-30 broad-leaved trees per ha may be sufficient to maintain higher forest bird abundance than clear-cutting over the rotation cycle. Retention approaches can be incorporated into management systems using certification schemes and best management practices. Developing an awareness of the roles and values of naturally regenerated trees is needed to diversify plantations.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Sharing land via keystone structure: Retaining naturally regenerated trees may efficiently benefit birds in plantations
Series title Ecological Applications
DOI 10.1002/eap.2802
Volume 33
Issue 3
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Eastern Ecological Science Center
Description e2802
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