Biodiversity differences between managed and unmanaged forests: meta-analysis of species richness in Europe

Conservation Biology : the Journal of the Society for Conservation Biology
Yoan PailletRisto Virtanen


Past and present pressures on forest resources have led to a drastic decrease in the surface area of unmanaged forests in Europe. Changes in forest structure, composition, and dynamics inevitably lead to changes in the biodiversity of forest-dwelling species. The possible biodiversity gains and losses due to forest management (i.e., anthropogenic pressures related to direct forest resource use), however, have never been assessed at a pan-European scale. We used meta-analysis to review 49 published papers containing 120 individual comparisons of species richness between unmanaged and managed forests throughout Europe. We explored the response of different taxonomic groups and the variability of their response with respect to time since abandonment and intensity of forest management. Species richness was slightly higher in unmanaged than in managed forests. Species dependent on forest cover continuity, deadwood, and large trees (bryophytes, lichens, fungi, saproxylic beetles) and carabids were negatively affected by forest management. In contrast, vascular plant species were favored. The response for birds was heterogeneous and probably depended more on factors such as landscape patterns. The global difference in species richness...Continue Reading


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