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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Estimating retention benchmarks for salvage logging to protect biodiversity

Thorn, Simon; Chao, Anne; Georgiev, Kostadin B.; Mueller, Joerg; Baessler, Claus; Campbell, John L.; Castro, Jorge; Chen, Yan-Han; Choi, Chang-Yong; Cobb, Tyler P.; Donato, Daniel C.; Durska, Ewa; Macdonald, Ellen; Feldhaar, Heike; Fontaine, Joseph B.; Fornwalt, Paula J.; Hernandez, Raquel Maria Hernandez; Hutto, Richard L.; Koivula, Matti; Lee, Eun-Jae; Lindenmayer, David; Mikusinski, Grzegorz; Obrist, Martin K.; Perlik, Michal; Rost, Josep; Waldron, Kaysandra; Wermelinger, Beat; Weiss, Ingmar; Zmihorski, Michal; Leverkus, Alexandro B.
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Forests are increasingly affected by natural disturbances. Subsequent salvage logging, a widespread management practice conducted predominantly to recover economic capital, produces further disturbance and impacts biodiversity worldwide. Hence, naturally disturbed forests are among the most threatened habitats in the world, with consequences for their associated biodiversity. However, there are no evidence-based benchmarks for the proportion of area of naturally disturbed forests to be excluded from salvage logging to conserve biodiversity. We apply a mixed rarefaction/extrapolation approach to a global multi-taxa dataset from disturbed forests, including birds, plants, insects and fungi, to close this gap. We find that 757% (mean +/- SD) of a naturally disturbed area of a forest needs to be left unlogged to maintain 90% richness of its unique species, whereas retaining 50% of a naturally disturbed forest unlogged maintains 73 +/- 12% of its unique species richness. These values do not change with the time elapsed since disturbance but vary considerably among taxonomic groups. Salvage logging has become a common practice to gain economic returns from naturally disturbed forests, but it could have considerable negative effects on biodiversity. Here the authors use a recently developed statistical method to estimate that ca. 75% of the naturally disturbed forest should be left unlogged to maintain 90% of the species unique to the area.

Published in

Nature Communications
2020, Volume: 11, number: 1, article number: 4762

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG15 Life on land

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science

    Publication identifier


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