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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Retention forestry amplifies microclimate buffering in boreal forests

Zhang, Shengmin; Sjögren, Jörgen; Jönsson, Mari


Retention forestry is increasingly adopted as an alternative to clearcutting practices and involves retaining structural and compositional complexity (e.g., living and dead trees) from preharvest to postharvest. Past studies have examined the role of retention forestry in supporting various ecosystem functions and biodiversity, whilst its microclimate buffering capacity has been largely neglected. We investigated the microclimates and the underlying mechanisms of retention forests relative to clearcuts and old forests in a boreal forest landscape in central Sweden. We found that both air temperature and vapour pressure deficit (VPD) differed significantly between the forest types. Old forests consistently exhibited the most buffered forest microclimates, followed by retention forests, while clearcuts displayed the lowest. Basal area and canopy cover were identified as the key determinants influencing air temperature and VPD across the forest types. Retention practices can also impact a stand’s microclimates. Specifically, maintaining diverse tree species had the potential to lower the stand’s maximum temperature, given its positive association with canopy cover. Large volumes of lying deadwood were found to be negatively correlated with both basal area and canopy cover, likely contributing to increased maximum temperatures. Furthermore, standing deadwood directly lowered the maximum temperature within forest stands. Finally, edge effects were observed in the retention forests, with south-facing edges experiencing significantly higher maximum temperature and VPD compared to north-facing edges and forest interiors. These south-facing edge effects were positively associated with the difference in lying deadwood volumes between forest edges and interiors. Our findings support the positive influence of retention practices on a stand’s microclimate buffering, achieved through preserving diverse tree species, standing deadwood, and implementing measures to prevent severe wind-induced tree mortality, particularly in south-facing edges (e.g. creating southfacing buffer zones). Forest managers and policy makers can utilize these results to minimize the climate-change impacts on below-canopy biodiversity and functioning.


Retention forestry; Climate change; Microclimate; Biodiversity; Deadwood; Species conservation

Published in

Agricultural and Forest Meteorology
2024, Volume: 350, article number: 109973