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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Prescribed fire is an effective restoration measure for increasing boreal fungal diversity

Ramberg, Ellinor; Berglund, Hakan; Penttila, Reijo; Strengbom, Joachim; Jonsson, Mari


Intensive forestry practices have had a negative impact on boreal forest biodiversity; as a consequence, the need for restoration is pressing. Polypores (wood-inhabiting fungi) are key decomposers of dead wood, but, due to a lack of coarse woody debris (CWD) in forest ecosystems, many species are under threat. Here, we study the long-term effects on polypore diversity of two restoration treatments: creating CWD by felling whole trees and prescribed burning. This large-scale experiment is located in spruce-dominated boreal forests in southern Finland. The experiment has a factorial design (n = 3) including three levels of created CWD (5, 30, and 60 m(3) ha(-1)) crossed with burning or no burning. In 2018, 16 years after launching the experiment, we inventoried polypores on 10 experimentally cut logs and 10 naturally fallen logs per stand. We found that overall polypore community composition differed between burned and unburned stands. However, only red-listed species abundances and richness were positively affected by prescribed burning. We found no effects of CWD levels created mechanically by felling of trees. We show, for the first time, that prescribed burning is an effective measure for restoring polypore diversity in a late-successional Norway spruce forest. Burning creates CWD with certain characteristics that differ from what is created by CWD restoration by felling trees. Prescribed burning promotes primarily red-listed species, demonstrating its effectiveness as a restoration measure to promote diversity of threatened polypore species in boreal forests. However, because the CWD that the burning creates will decrease over time, to be functional, prescribed burns need to be applied regularly on the landscape scale. Large-scale and long-term experimental studies, such as this one, are invaluable for establishing evidence-based restoration strategies.


boreal forest; coarse woody debris; long-term experiment; polypore; prescribed fire; restoration

Published in

Ecological Applications
2023, Volume: 33, number: 6, article number: e2892
Publisher: WILEY