Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 271–287 | Cite as

Selection harvest in temperate deciduous forests: impact on herb layer richness and composition

  • Goddert von Oheimb
  • Werner Härdtle
Original Paper


Herb layer richness and composition of four forest types and three different management treatments were investigated in 16 deciduous forest stands of northern Germany. Specifically, we compared the species richness and composition occurring in mature forest stands that were single-tree and group selection harvested to those in unmanaged reference stands. Mean species richness of all herb layer species increased significantly with increasing harvest severity. When analyzing plant groups separately, it became obvious that this overall pattern was not consistent. While a negative relationship was detected between vernal herb richness and harvest severity, group selection harvest significantly increased species richness of summer herbaceous forest species and generalists. Woody species richness was not related to harvest severity. Community composition of the spring aspect was not significantly affected by selection harvest, whereas herb layer species composition in the summer aspect differed significantly among the three harvest treatments. A dominance of highly competitive shrub and generalist species was confined to some parts of the most intensively harvested stands. Overall, our results indicate that the herb layer community was not severely adversely affected by selection harvest at the intensities used in the studied stands. It is suggested that selection harvest systems may be feasible tools with which to conserve local forest vascular plant diversity and at the same time to meet the demand for timber products. However, information about forest history and the implementation of the selection harvest system are basic requirements when interpreting the results of studies on understorey response to selection harvest.


Forest management Harvest intensity Herbaceous forest species Northern Germany Understorey vegetation Vernal herbs 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Ecology and Environmental ChemistryUniversity of LüneburgLuneburgGermany

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