Currently, the most common strategy when managing forests for biodiversity at the landscape scale is to maintain structural complexity within stands and provide a variety of seral stages across landscapes. Advances in ecological theory reveal that biodiversity at continental scales is strongly influenced by available energy (i.e., climate factors relating to heat and light and primary productivity). This paper explores how available energy and forest structural complexity may interact to drive biodiversity at a regional scale.
We hypothesized that bird species richness exhibits a hump-shaped relationship with energy at the regional scale of the northwestern United States. As a result, we hypothesized that the relationship between energy and richness within a landscape is positive in energy-limited landscapes and flat or decreasing in energy-rich landscapes. Additionally, we hypothesized that structural complexity explains less of the variation in species richness in energy-limited environments and more in energy-rich environments and that the slope of the relationship between structural complexity and richness is greatest in energy-rich environments.
We sampled bird communities and vegetation across seral stages and biophysical settings at each of five landscapes arrayed across a productivity gradient from the Pacific Coast to the Rocky Mountains within the five northwestern states of the contiguous United States. We analyzed the response of richness to structural complexity and energy covariates at each landscape. We found that (1) richness had a hump-shaped relationship with available energy across the northwestern United States, (2) the landscape-scale relationships between energy and richness were positive or hump shaped in energy-limited locations and were flat or negative in energy-rich locations, (3) forest structural complexity explained more of the variation in bird species richness in energy-rich landscapes, and (4) the slope of the relationship between forest structural complexity and richness was steepest in energy-limited locations. In energy-rich locations, forest managers will likely increase landscape-scale bird diversity by providing a range of forest structural complexity across all seral stages. In low-energy environments, bird diversity will likely be maximized by managing local high-energy hotspots judiciously and adjusting harvest intensities in other locations to compensate for slower regeneration rates.
Copyright 2008 by the Ecological Society of America. Jacob P. Verschuyl, Andrew J. Hansen, David B. McWethy, Rex Sallabanks, and Richard L. Hutto 2008. IS THE EFFECT OF FOREST STRUCTURE ON BIRD DIVERSITY MODIFIED BY FOREST PRODUCTIVITY. Ecological Applications 18:1155–1170. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/07-0839.1.