Comparing the effects of even- and uneven-aged silviculture on ecological diversity and processes: A review.
Philippe Nolet, Daniel Kneeshaw, Christian Messier, Martin Béland.
With an increasing pressure on forested landscapes, conservation areas may fail to maintain biodiversity if they are not supported by the surrounding managed forest matrix. Worldwide, forests are managed by one of two broad approaches—even- and uneven-aged silviculture. In recent decades, there has been rising public pressure against the systematic use of even-aged silviculture (especially clear-cutting) because of its perceived negative esthetic and ecological impacts. This led to an increased interest for uneven-aged silviculture. However, to date, there has been no worldwide ecological comparison of the two approaches, based on multiple indicators. Overall, for the 99 combinations of properties or processes verified (one study may have evaluated more than one property or process), we found nineteen (23) combinations that clearly showed uneven-aged silviculture improved the evaluated metrics compared to even-aged silviculture, eleven (16) combinations that showed the opposite, and 60 combinations that were equivocal. Furthermore, many studies were based on a limited study design without either a timescale (44 of the 76) or spatial (54 of the 76) scale consideration. Current views that uneven-aged silviculture is better suited than even-aged silviculture for maintaining ecological diversity and processes are not substantiated by our analyses. Our review, by studying a large range of indicators and many different taxonomic groups, also clearly demonstrates that no single approach can be relied on and that both approaches are needed to ensure a greater number of positive impacts. Moreover, the review clearly highlights the importance of maintaining protected areas as some taxonomic groups were found to be negatively affected no matter the management approach used. Finally, our review points to a lack of knowledge for determining the use of even- or uneven-aged silviculture in terms of both their respective proportion in the landscape and their spatial agency.