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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

The intensity of forest management affects the nest cavity production of woodpeckers and tits in mature boreal forests

Pakkala, Timo; Peltonen, Anna; Lindberg, Henrik; Hjalten, Joakim; Kouki, Jari


Cavities made by birds are an important microhabitat for many taxa in forests. Long-term dynamics of cavity patterns and the effect of forest management on cavities are, however, largely unknown. We studied cavity production, measured as nest cavity production rates (CPR = no. of new cavities/km2/year), of woodpeckers and tits in forests with different management intensity in southern Finland, based on a data from 37 years. Forests were divided into managed, seminatural and natural stands. The data covered 56 forest stands with the total area of 1690 ha. Stands were inventoried annually for new cavities. The total numbers of woodpecker and tit cavities were 2238 and 329, respectively. There were large differences in CPRs between forest stands with different management intensity. For woodpeckers, the CPR was highest in natural forests (5.7) and lowest in managed forests (1.5). For the tit species, the respective numbers were 0.9 and 0.3. The CPRs of different cavity-making bird species and cavity tree characteristics (e.g. tree condition and species) were consistent, suggesting that different cavity-makers benefit from similar forest and tree characteristics. The results also suggest that forests managed with currently prevailing methods limit the production of cavities. To promote cavities, the results from this and other studies suggest that managed forests should include more features of natural forests, such as more diverse tree species and within-stand structural variability distribution (tree-level heterogeneity), larger amount of decayed wood, more retention trees and snags and longer rotation periods.


Tree cavity; Forest management; Forestry history; Boreal forest; Woodpecker; Tit; Forest microhabitat

Published in

European Journal of Forest Research
2024, Volume: 143, number: 2, pages: 617–634
Publisher: SPRINGER