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Do we create ecological traps when trying to emulate natural disturbances? A test on songbirds of the northern hardwood forest

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Forest management inspired from natural disturbances is often claimed to have more benign effects on biodiversity than more traditional approaches but this premise has rarely been tested. In the northern hardwood forest, selection harvesting could be seen as a surrogate for the combined effects of windthrow, moderate ice storms, and senescence. Here, we quantified the response of two focal species of forest birds (Brown Creeper (Certhia americana (Bonaparte, 1838)) and Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla (Linnaeus, 1766))) to this treatment (30%–40% basal area removal) in the first 5 years post-harvest using a replicated field experiment. We tested the possibility that selection harvesting creates ecological traps whereby individuals show a preference for a habitat type where their fitness is lower. We found that both focal species actually seemed to prefer control plots, where they reached a higher density than in treated plots. There was no evidence for a treatment effect on per capita productivity in either species. Hence, there was no evidence for an ecological trap. However, large-scale application of selection harvesting may have ecologically significant effects on productivity of the focal species per unit area of habitat. Future studies should test whether selection harvesting creates ecological traps for species naturally associated with canopy gaps.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Département de biologie, Université de Moncton, Moncton, NB E1A 3E9, Canada. 2: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E9, Canada.

Publication date: July 1, 2012

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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