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Effects of fuelwood harvesting on biodiversity — a review focused on the situation in Europe

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A continually increasing demand for energy and concerns about climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and peak oil have prompted countries to develop policies that promote renewable energy including forest-based bioenergy. In Europe, fuelwood-driven changes in forestry are likely to impact habitat conditions for forest biodiversity. We conducted a systematic literature overview based on 88 papers to synthesize research findings and gaps in knowledge. At the stand scale, but also on a landscape scale, deadwood availability and profile are altered by several practices: whole-tree harvesting and postharvest recovery of logging residues and stumps, for instance. Large-scale fuelwood removal may, on a landscape scale, jeopardize the amounts and diversity of substrate that saproxylic organisms require as food and habitat. Besides, bioenergy-related forest practices also affect nonsaproxylic biodiversity through physical (e.g., soil compaction and disturbance) and chemical changes in soil properties associated with fuelwood removal and increased machine traffic. Moreover, the extended density of internal edges threatens interior forest species populations. Important effects differ substantially between boreal and nemoral forests because of contrasts in management systems, structure of forest ownership, and ecological properties. Developing relevant operational guidelines to partially mitigate ecological damage on biodiversity should be based on our compiled cautionary statements but require further large-scale and long-term research.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture (Irstea), Research Unit “Forest ecosystems”, Domaine des Barres, F-45290 Nogent-sur-Vernisson, France. 2: Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 7044, SE-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden.

Publication date: August 31, 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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