Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 1828
Title: Does riparian forest restoration thinning enhance biodiversity? The ecological importance of large wood
Author: Michael M. Pollock, T. J. Beechie
Publication Year: 2014
Journal: Journal of the American Water Resources Association
Volume: 50
Issue: 3
Pages: 543-559
Keywords: Riparian ecosystems,salmonids,Forestry,biodiversity,riparian restoration,

Intact riparian ecosystems are rich in biological diversity, but throughout the world, many have been degraded. Biodiversity declines, particularly of vertebrates, have led to experimental efforts to restore riparian forests by thinning young stands to accelerate creation of large-diameter live trees. However, many vertebrates depend on large-diameter deadwood that is standing as snags or fallen to the forest floor or fallen into streams. 

Therefore, we reviewed the sizes of deadwood and live trees used by different vertebrate species to understand which species are likely to benefit from different thinning treatments. We then examined how riparian thinning affects the long-term development of both large diameter live trees and deadwood. To this end, we used a forest growth model to examine how different forest thinning intensities might affect the long-term production and abundance of live trees and deadwood. 

Our results suggest that there are long-term habitat tradeoffs associated with different thinning intensities. Species that utilize large-diameter live trees will benefit most from heavy thinning, whereas species that utilize large-diameter deadwood will benefit most from light or no thinning. Because far more vertebrate species utilize large deadwood rather than large live trees, allowing riparian forests to naturally develop may result in the most rapid and sustained development of structural features important to most terrestrial and aquatic vertebrates.

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Theme: Habitats to Support Sustainable Fisheries and Recovered Populations