Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 22, Issue 12, pp 2957–2975 | Cite as

Can a trait-based multi-taxa approach improve our assessment of forest management impact on biodiversity?

  • Isabelle Aubin
  • Lisa Venier
  • Jennie Pearce
  • Marco Moretti
Original Paper


Harvest impact on forest biodiversity has been widely studied, but for managers confronted with a need for integrated cross-taxa assessment, application remains a significant challenge. Using post-harvest boreal forest succession as a model system, we investigate the usefulness of a trait-based multi-taxa approach to improve our understanding of the community dynamics after disturbance. We assess the strength of response to forest harvesting and recovery patterns of four taxa with contrasting attributes (vegetation, carabids, spiders and birds) along a post-harvest chronosequence of jack pine stands in the boreal forests of Canada. We used a complementary set of functional and taxonomic diversity metrics to identify commonalities and dissimilarities in the community assembly processes and sensitivities to harvesting among taxa. Despite the overall similarity of community response for most pairs of taxa and metrics, the strength of cross-taxa congruency varied greatly among metrics, illustrating the complexity of taxa response to harvest as well as the necessity of including a variety of biodiversity metrics in impact assessments. Of the four selected taxa, spiders were found the most sensitive to harvesting, with a strong response to environmental changes after harvest and a slow community recovery process. Birds and carabids showed highly congruent response patterns, with a strong response to harvest followed by a marked recovery process. Ground vegetation was the most resilient to harvesting. We discuss the management implications of these contrasting recovery processes, outline the current limitations of this method and suggest steps toward the implementation of effective integrated multi-taxa monitoring programs.


Birds Carabids Forest harvesting Ground vegetation Recovery process Spiders 



Thanks to all field assistants for their time and efforts in the field and in the laboratory. Thanks to F. de Bello for statistical advice. Thanks to F. Cardou and K. Chapman who improved earlier versions of the manuscript. We gratefully acknowledge the statistical and graphical support provided by D. Charbonneau, G. B. Pezzatti and J. L. Payeur-Poirier and the feedback provided by D. Morris. Financial support was provided by the Living Legacy Trust.

Supplementary material

10531_2013_565_MOESM1_ESM.doc (498 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 510 kb)


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Copyright information

© Her Majesty the Queen in Rights of Canada 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Isabelle Aubin
    • 1
  • Lisa Venier
    • 1
  • Jennie Pearce
    • 2
  • Marco Moretti
    • 3
  1. 1.Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest ServiceGreat Lakes Forestry CentreSault Ste. MarieCanada
  2. 2.Pearce & Associates Ecological ResearchSault Ste. MarieCanada
  3. 3.Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Community EcologyBellinzonaSwitzerland

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