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

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 


  1. Atlegrim O, Sjöberg K (2004) Selective felling as a potential tool for maintaining biodiversity in managed forests. Biodivers Conserv 13:1123–1133. doi: 10.1023/B:BIOC.0000018148.84640.fd CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aude E, Lawesson JE (1998) Vegetation in Danish beech forests: the importance of soil, microclimate and management factors, evaluated by variation partitioning. Plant Ecol 134:53–65. doi: 10.1023/A:1009720206762 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bengtsson J, Nilsson SG, Franc A, Menozzi P (2000) Biodiversity, disturbances, ecosystem function and management of European forests. For Ecol Manage 132:39–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brunet J, von Oheimb G (1998) Migration of vascular plants to secondary woodlands in southern Sweden. J Ecol 86:429–438. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2745.1998.00269.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brunet J, Falkengren-Grerup U, Tyler G (1996) Herb layer vegetation of south Swedish beech and oak forests—effects of management and soil acidity during one decade. For Ecol Manage 88:259–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Collins BS, Dunne KP, Pickett STA (1985) Responses of forest herbs to canopy gaps. In: Pickett STA, White PS (eds) The ecology of natural disturbance and patch dynamics. Academic, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  7. Connell JH (1978) Diversity in tropical rain forests and coral reefs. Science 199:1302–1310. doi: 10.1126/science.199.4335.1302 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Costa F, Magnusson W (2002) Selective logging effects on abundance, diversity, and composition of tropical understorey herbs. Ecol Appl 12:807–819. doi: 10.1890/1051-0761(2002)012[0807:SLEOAD]2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Decocq G, Hermy M (2003) Are there herbaceous dryads in temperate deciduous forests? Acta Bot Gall 150:373–382Google Scholar
  10. Decocq G, Aubert M, Dupont F, Alard D, Saguez R, Wattez-Franger A et al (2004) Plant diversity in a managed temperate deciduous forest: understorey response to two silvicultural systems. J Appl Ecol 41:1065–1079. doi: 10.1111/j.0021-8901.2004.00960.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Decocq G, Aubert M, Dupont F, Bardat J, Wattez-Franger A, Saguez R et al (2005) Silviculture-driven vegetation change in a European temperate deciduous forest. Ann For Sci 62:313–323. doi: 10.1051/forest:2005026 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Drößler L, von Lüpke B (2005) Canopy gaps in two virgin beech forest reserves in Slovakia. J For Sci 51:446–457Google Scholar
  13. Dufrêne M, Legendre P (1997) Species assemblages and indicator species: the need for a flexible asymmetrical approach. Ecol Monogr 61:53–73Google Scholar
  14. Elliott KJ, Knoepp JD (2005) The effects of three regeneration harvest methods on plant diversity and soil characteristics in the southern Appalachians. For Ecol Manage 211:296–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fredericksen TS, Ross BD, Hoffman W, Morrison ML, Beyea J, Johnson BN, Lester MB, Ross E (1999) Short-term understorey plant community responses to timber-harvesting intensity on non-industrial private forestlands in Pennsylvania. For Ecol Manage 116:129–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gilliam FS, Roberts MR (eds) (2003) The herbaceous layer in forests of eastern North America. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. Godefroid S, Koedam N (2004) Interspecific variation in soil compaction sensitivity among forest floor species. Biol Conserv 119:207–217. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2003.11.009 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Godefroid S, Rucquoij S, Koedam N (2005) To what extent do forest herbs recover after clearcutting in beech forest? For Ecol Manage 210:39–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Graae BJ, Heskjær VS (1997) A comparison of understorey vegetation between untouched and managed deciduous forest in Denmark. For Ecol Manage 96:111–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Haeussler S, Bedford L, Leduc A, Bergeron Y, Kranabetter JM (2002) Silvicultural disturbance severity and plant communities of the southern Canadian boreal forest. Silva Fenn 36:307–327Google Scholar
  21. Härdtle W, von Oheimb G, Westphal C (2003) The effects of light and soil conditions on the species richness of the ground vegetation of deciduous forests in northern Germany (Schleswig-Holstein). For Ecol Manage 182:327–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Härdtle W, von Oheimb G, Westphal C (2005) Relationships between the vegetation and soil conditions in beech and beech-oak forests of northern Germany. Plant Ecol 177:113–124. doi: 10.1007/s11258-005-2187-x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hermy M, Honnay O, Firbank L, Grashof-Bokdam CJ, Lawesson JE (1999) An ecological comparison between ancient and other forest plant species of Europe, and the implications for forest conservation. Biol Conserv 91:9–22. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3207(99)00045-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jensch D (2004) Der Einfluss von Störungen auf Waldbodenvegetation. Experimente in drei hessischen Buchenwäldern. Diss Bot 386:1–388Google Scholar
  25. Kern CC, Palik BJ, Strong TF (2006) Ground-layer plant community responses to even-age and uneven-age silvicultural treatments in Wisconsin northern hardwood forests. For Ecol Manage 230:162–170Google Scholar
  26. Kubota Y, Katsuda K, Kikuzawa K (2005) Secondary succession and effects of clear-logging on diversity in the subtropical forests on Okinawa Island, southern Japan. Biodivers Conserv 14:879–901. doi: 10.1007/s10531-004-0657-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mayer P, Abs C, Fischer A (2004) Colonisation by vascular plants after soil disturbance in the Bavarian Forest—key factors and relevance for forest dynamics. For Ecol Manage 188:279–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McCune B, Mefford MJ (1999) PC-ORD. Multivariate analysis of ecological data, version 4.25. MjM Software, Gleneden Beach, ORGoogle Scholar
  29. MCPFE (Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe) (2007) State of Europe’s forests 2007. The MCPFE report on sustainable forest management in Europe. Liaison Unit Warsaw, WarsawGoogle Scholar
  30. Meier AJ, Bratton SP, Duffy DC (1995) Possible ecological mechanisms for loss of vernal-herb diversity in logged eastern deciduous forests. Ecol Appl 5:935–946. doi: 10.2307/2269344 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mitchell RJ, Palik BJ, Hunter ML (2002) Natural disturbance as a guide to silviculture. For Ecol Manage 155:315–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Nakashizuka T (2001) Species coexistence in temperate mixed deciduous forests. Trends Ecol Evol 16:205–210. doi: 10.1016/S0169-5347(01)02117-6 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nyland RD (2002) Silviculture: concepts and applications. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  34. Pickett STA, White PS (1985) The ecology of natural disturbance and patch dynamics. Academic, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  35. Roberts MR (2004) Response of the herbaceous layer to natural disturbance in North American forests. Can J Bot 82:1273–1283. doi: 10.1139/b04-091 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Roberts MR, Gilliam FS (2003) Response of the herbaceous layer to disturbance in eastern North America. In: Gilliam FS, Roberts MR (eds) The herbaceous layer in forests of eastern North America. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  37. Roberts MR, Zhu L (2002) Early response of the herbaceous layer to harvesting in a mixed coniferous-deciduous forest in New Brunswick, Canada. For Ecol Manage 155:17–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rosenzweig ML (1995) Species diversity in space and time. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  39. Scharenbroch BC, Bockheim JG (2007) Impacts of forest gaps on soil properties and processes in old growth northern hardwood-hemlock forests. Plant Soil 294:219–233. doi: 10.1007/s11104-007-9248-y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Schlichting E, Blume HP, Stahr K (1995) Bodenkundliches Praktikum. Blackwell, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  41. Schmidt M, Ewald J, Fischer A, von Oheimb G, Kriebitzsch WU, Ellenberg H, Schmidt W (2003) Liste der in Deutschland typischen Waldgefäßpflanzen. Mitt Bundesforschungsanstalt Forst- Holzwirtschaft 212:1–34Google Scholar
  42. Smith GF, Gittings T, Wilson M, French L, Oxbrough A, O’Donoghue S et al (2008) Identifying practical indicators of biodiversity for stand-level management of plantation forests. Biodivers Conserv 17:991–1015. doi: 10.1007/s10531-007-9274-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Thiollay JM (2002) Forest ecosystems: threats, sustainable use and biodiversity conservation. Biodivers Conserv 11:943–946. doi: 10.1023/A:1015843602023 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Thomas SC, Halpern CB, Falk DA, Liguori DA, Austin KA (1999) Plant diversity in managed forests: understorey responses to thinning and fertilization. Ecol Appl 9:864–879. doi: 10.1890/1051-0761(1999)009[0864:PDIMFU]2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Van der Maarel E (1979) Transformation of cover-abundance values in phytosociology and its effect on community similarity. Vegetatio 39:97–114. doi: 10.1007/BF00052021 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Verheyen K, Honnay O, Motzkin G, Hermy M, Foster DR (2003) Response of forest plant species to land-use change: a life-history trait-based approach. J Ecol 91:563–577. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2745.2003.00789.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. von Oheimb G, Westphal C, Tempel H, Härdtle W (2005) Structural pattern of a near-natural beech forest (Fagus sylvatica) (Serrahn, North-east Germany). For Ecol Manage 212:253–263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. von Oheimb G, Friedel A, Bertsch A, Härdtle W (2007) The effects of windthrow on plant species richness in a Central European beech forest. Plant Ecol 191:47–65. doi: 10.1007/s11258-006-9213-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wisskirchen R, Haeupler H (1998) Standardliste der Farn- und Blütenpflanzen Deutschlands. Ulmer, StuttgartGoogle Scholar
  50. Zenner EK, Kabrick JM, Jensen RG, Peck JE, Grabner JK (2006) Responses of ground flora to a gradient of harvest intensity in the Missouri Ozarks. For Ecol Manage 222:326–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zerbe S, Schmidt I, Betzin J (2007) Indicators for plant species richness in pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) forests in Germany. Biodivers Conserv 16:3301–3316. doi: 10.1007/s10531-006-9111-0 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations