Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 22, Issue 6–7, pp 1513–1536 | Cite as

Effects of prescribed burning and harvesting on ground-dwelling spiders in the Canadian boreal mixedwood forest

  • Jaime PinzonEmail author
  • John R. Spence
  • David W. Langor
Original Paper


The ‘Natural Disturbance Paradigm’ for forest management seeks to meet conservation goals by modeling industrial harvest in fire-driven forest systems on patterns associated with wildfire. Fire suppression and increased forest harvesting may have detrimental effects on biodiversity, and therefore prescribed burning is suggested to retain legacies of wildfire not emulated under natural disturbance based approaches. The merits of this approach are being tested in the EMEND experiment in the Canadian boreal mixedwood forest. We compared responses of ground-dwelling spiders between sites subjected to prescribed post-harvest burning and retention harvest during three seasons during the first 7 years after disturbance. Overall, 38,661 adult spiders representing 190 species were collected. Estimated species richness was highest in undisturbed sites in all 3 years. Burning had the strongest negative effect on species richness 1–2 years after treatment; however, richness was higher in burns than in harvested sites 5–6 years post-disturbance. Species turnover was highest within controls but tended to increase over time between burned and harvested plots. Lower turnover in burned and harvested sites may reflect habitat homogenization by disturbance, suggesting a management and conservation challenge in relation to naturally disturbed and undisturbed areas. Species were grouped into disturbance-specialists, disturbance-tolerant, disturbance-generalists and generalists; 22 species were significant indicators for untreated sites, 18 for the burn and three for the harvest treatments. No major differences were observed in the spider fauna between harvested and burned areas within the first 6–7 years post-disturbance, and little evidence of recovery toward the pre-harvest fauna was evidenced. However, long term experiments may improve understanding of natural disturbance processes and improve management of boreal forests.


Prescribed burning Disturbance Forest management Biodiversity Indicator species EMEND 



We thank Anne Oxbrough, Esther Kamunya, Stephane Bourassa, Karen E. Hodges and two anonymous referees for discussions and comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. We thank Emily Turton, Stuart Morrison, Erin Elliot, Jason Edwards, Charlene Hahn, and EMEND core crews for their valuable help during field and laboratory work, and Don Buckle for his help with spider identifications. The Killam Trust Scholarship, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Foothills Research Institute, and many of the EMEND partners (especially Daishowa-Marubeni International, Canadian Forest Products, and Manning Diversified Forest Products) provided funds for this project.

Supplementary material

10531_2013_489_MOESM1_ESM.doc (856 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 855 kb)
10531_2013_489_MOESM2_ESM.doc (264 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOC 263 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jaime Pinzon
    • 1
    Email author
  • John R. Spence
    • 1
  • David W. Langor
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Renewable ResourcesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Canadian Forest Service, Northern Forestry CentreEdmontonCanada

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