Chainsawing for conservation: ecologically informed tree removal for habitat management

Pike, David, Webb, Jonathan K, and Shine, Richard (2011) Chainsawing for conservation: ecologically informed tree removal for habitat management. Ecological Management and Restoration, 12 (2). pp. 110-118.

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In many ecosystems, increases in vegetation density and the resulting closure of forest canopies are threatening the viability of species that depend upon open, sunlight-exposed habitats. Consequently, we need to develop management strategies that recreate open habitats while minimizing the impacts on non-target areas. Selective logging creates canopy gaps, but may result in undesirable effects in other respects. Thus, chainsaws have not been a popular tool for conservation. We conducted a landscape-scale experiment to test whether selective tree removal can restore patch-level habitat quality for Australia's most endangered snake (Hoplocephalus bungaroides) and its main prey (the lizard Oedura lesueurii). We selectively removed canopy trees surrounding 25 overgrown rock outcrops and compared the resultant habitat structure and abiotic conditions to 30 overgrown, shady outcrops and 20 open, sunny outcrops. Removing vegetation decreased canopy cover by 19% in experimental plots and increased incident radiation and thermal regimes. These changes increased the availability of suitable shelter sites for our target species by 131%. At the landscape scale, our manipulations had a trivial effect on forest habitat; by increasing the area of sun-exposed outcrops, we decreased forest cover by <0.1%. Our results show that targeted canopy removal can increase the availability of sun-exposed habitat patches for endangered species in biologically meaningful ways. Thus, selective tree felling may be an effective conservation tool for open-habitat specialists threatened by vegetation overgrowth.

Item ID: 18791
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1442-8903
Keywords: habitat quality, open habitat, rock outcrops, thermal regimes, vegetation encroachment
Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2011 02:45
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology) @ 50%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050205 Environmental Management @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9612 Rehabilitation of Degraded Environments > 961203 Rehabilitation of Degraded Forest and Woodlands Environments @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9609 Land and Water Management > 960906 Forest and Woodlands Land Management @ 50%
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