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Recovery of mature forest microclimate and bryophyte communities in logged forests

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Baker, TP (2016) Recovery of mature forest microclimate and bryophyte communities in logged forests. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Globally, many forest ecosystems that undergo harvesting are adapted to natural
disturbances such as fire. However, harvested forests can have depleted biodiversity due to
different ecological impacts between harvesting and natural disturbance. To minimise the
ecological changes due to forest harvesting, management techniques have been developed
that better mimic the effects of natural disturbance. These techniques focus on retaining
structural components of the pre-disturbance forest within harvested areas. Retained
structures create more mature environmental conditions within the harvested area; these
mature conditions encourage recolonisation and development of mature communities.
Aggregated retention is an example of a management technique that retains mature forest
elements. It involves the retention of patches (aggregates) of trees within harvested units.
Retained aggregates have multiple benefits; they provide areas for mature forest species to
persist through the disturbance period (“lifeboating”), and they can create more mature forest
like conditions within the harvested area through “forest influence” – edge effects that occur
within disturbed forest due to proximity to a nearby standing mature forest. Forest influence
works through mechanisms such as shading and the reduction of dispersal distance.
Aggregated retention and other similar techniques have been implemented across
many forest systems throughout the world. However, little is known about how effective they
are for various groups of organisms. In Tasmanian forests, aggregated retention has been
identified as an effective harvesting method for sustainable harvesting, yet information on
how forest influence impacts environmental conditions and community structure is limited.
Gaining knowledge on how increasing environmental maturity and the ways in which forest
influence can aid in the return of pre-disturbance biological communities is crucial in the
adaptive management of retention harvesting systems both in Tasmania and globally.
In this thesis, I investigate the impacts of forest influence on important abiotic
components, specifically microclimate. I then assess the benefits of increased environmental
maturity on recolonisation of bryophyte flora and the role that forest influence can have in
bryophyte recolonisation. These topics are addressed across four experimental chapters. The
first experimental chapter investigates how environmental conditions within harvested forest
impacts on the level of maturity of bryophyte communities (Chapter 2). This is achieved by
creating a measure of bryophyte community maturity within harvested forest. Various environmental conditions were then tested to see if they impact the recolonisation of mature
bryophyte flora.
Following on from this, I investigate whether distance from a mature forest edge
(forest influence) can adjust the microclimate of disturbed forests (Chapter 3). Patterns in
forest influence on bryophyte communities are then investigated (Chapter 4) to determine
whether plots closer to a mature forest edge experience more rapid recolonisation by
bryophytes. These questions are tested by sampling microclimate and bryophyte community
composition across mature forest/harvested edges and analysing how condition change with
distance from an edge. Additionally, as restoration of harvested areas is highly dependent on
successional processes, the benefits of increased maturity and forest influence need to be
assessed through time. Consequently, Chapters 2 - 4 were based on a chronosequence (space
for time) study of sites that were previously clearfelled, to enable temporal impacts to be
assessed. Finally, this thesis examines whether isolated aggregates generate the same level of
microclimatic forest influence as the forest bordering the harvested area (Chapter 5). This
comparison will help determine whether aggregated retention silviculture is an effective
technique in generating environmental maturity within harvested forest.
Results of the thesis showed that mature environmental conditions within harvested
areas did increase the maturity of bryophyte community compositions. Microclimate
conditions were shown to be of particular importance in determining the community maturity
of bryophytes within harvested forest. Results from Chapter 3 then showed that forest
influence is an ecological process that can create mature forest microclimate conditions.
Areas next to a mature forest edge experienced microclimatic conditions that were more
similar to mature forest conditions within harvested areas. As well as its impact on
microclimate, Chapter 4 showed that forest influence also impacted bryophyte communities.
Bryophyte communities recover quicker in areas next to an edge compared to areas further
away. In the final experimental chapter (Chapter 5), results showed that aggregated retention
is an effective method to create microclimate forest influence within harvested areas.
Overall, I have shown that forest influence is effective at creating mature forest
conditions within regenerating harvested forest, and that bryophyte recolonisation is aided by
increased environmental maturity. This information can be used to refine management
techniques, such as aggregated retention, which are designed to encourage forest influence
for facilitating the successful restoration of harvested areas. The temporal response to forest influence and the development of mature environmental conditions shows that future studies
on the benefits of retention forestry should consider time since disturbance when reporting
results.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Forest Ecology, Edge effects, Aggregated Retention, Bryophytes, Microclimate, Moss, Liverwort, Temperature
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2015 the author

Additional Information:

Chapter 3 appears to be the equivalent of a post-print version of an article published as: Baker, T.P, Jordan, G.J, Steel, E.A, Fountain-Jones, N.M, Wardlaw, T.J and Baker, S.C (2014) Microclimate through space and time: Microclimatic variation at the edge of regeneration forests over daily, yearly and decadal time scales, 334, 174-184

Date Deposited: 07 Oct 2016 01:49
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2016 00:25
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