Dead wood in managed forests: how much and how much is enough? development of a snag-quantification method by remote sensing & GIS and snag targets based on Three-toed woodpeckers' habitat requirements

The aims of this research were twofold: to develop an efficient method for the quantification of large spruce snags (standing dying and dead trees), and to establish snag target values for sustainable forest management. We answer the two basic questions: how much dead wood is currently available in managed forests? And how much dead wood is enough for biodiversity conservation? It is widely accepted that modern forest management has to be sustainable. One generally recognised criterion of sustainability is the maintenance of biodiversity. Since this concept encompasses a large range of scales and features (landscapes, ecosystems, species and genes; components, processes, functions, etc.), biodiversity indicators have been identified for measurement and monitoring purposes. "Dead wood" has been recognised as a key indicator for biodiversity in forest ecosystems. Verifying and assessing progress towards biodiversity maintenance or restoration hence requires the measurement of different kinds of dead wood. Yet cost-efficient and rapid methods are still lacking. That is why we developed in this thesis an efficient method for the quantification of large spruce snags. Being based on infrared Aerial Photos and a Geographic Information System (GIS), it is called the AP-GIS-method. It enables mapping of snags and calculation of the spatial snag-density, i.e. the number of snags per hectare, and can be used to answer the question: How much dead wood is in managed forests? Beside techniques to assess dead-wood quantities, forest managers need quantitative target values, i.e. guidelines in order to know how much dead wood should be maintained in managed forests for biodiversity conservation. Natural forests may be used as reference systems to define such targets. However, since dead-wood amounts in natural forests may be extremely high, up to 30% of dead trunks, the retention of such amounts in managed forests would hardly be compatible with economic objectives. Another possibility for defining guidelines is the translation of the habitat requirements of deadwood- dependent species into management targets. The Three-toed woodpecker Picoides tridactylus has previously been recognised as a potential indicator species of features characteristic for forests with natural dynamics (especially old-growth). Although ecological studies had demonstrated its need of dying and dead trees for foraging, nesting and drumming, the required density of such trees has never been quantified. In this thesis, we analysed the dependence on dead wood for both European subspecies, the Alpine Picoides tridactylus alpinus and the northern P. tr. tridactylus. The study was conducted in sub-Alpine spruce forests in Switzerland and boreal forests in central Sweden. In both countries, we found a significant non-linear response of the probability of woodpecker presence to different amounts of dead trees, and identified critical ecological thresholds for the local presence of this species. Clearly, the Three-toed woodpecker depends on relatively high amounts of dying and dead trees. In Switzerland, the road network density negatively affected the presence of this woodpecker species, since a high road density facilitates forest management intensification and the removal of diseased and dead trees. Based on our results, and since several other links with biodiversity have previously been demonstrated, we suggest that Three-toed woodpeckers be considered indicators of dead wood and habitat quality. This species has therefore been used in this thesis to find an answer to the question: How much dead wood is enough in managed forests? In order to ascertain dead-tree targets, we developed a bioenergetic model for Threetoed woodpeckers, enabling estimation of snag amounts required by this species to satisfy its energy needs. By comparing modelling results with the previously identified critical dead-wood thresholds, we were able to derive reliable targets, since both approaches resulted in similar critical values. We recommend, for both boreal and sub-Alpine spruce forests, aiming for 5% of the standing tree basal area, or volume to be dead. Such snag-retention levels, to be applied over an area of about 100 ha, correspond in sub-Alpine forests to a basal area of ≥ 1.6 m2 ha-1, or a volume of ≥ 18 m3 ha-1, or a minimum of 14 snags with a diameter ≥ 21 cm per hectare. Considered as a pragmatic way to stimulate forest managers' interest in dead wood maintenance or restoration, we analysed the potential usefulness of Three-toed woodpeckers as natural agents against bark beetles. By defining three scenarios for different levels of woodpecker effectiveness, we compared the numbers of bark beetles consumed with those caught in pheromone traps used in forestry. We demonstrate that woodpeckers catch 2-19 times more bark beetles than traps do. This result is true for both cases, when one woodpecker is compared with one trap, and when the whole Swiss woodpecker population is compared to all traps installed in Swiss forests.

Schlaepfer, Rodolphe
Lausanne, EPFL
Other identifiers:
urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-epfl-thesis2761-8

 Record created 2005-03-16, last modified 2018-01-27

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