Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 1203–1227 | Cite as

Plantation forests, climate change and biodiversity

  • S. M. PawsonEmail author
  • A. Brin
  • E. G. Brockerhoff
  • D. Lamb
  • T. W. Payn
  • A. Paquette
  • J. A. Parrotta
Original Paper


Nearly 4 % of the world’s forests are plantations, established to provide a variety of ecosystem services, principally timber and other wood products. In addition to such services, plantation forests provide direct and indirect benefits to biodiversity via the provision of forest habitat for a wide range of species, and by reducing negative impacts on natural forests by offsetting the need to extract resources. There is compelling evidence that climate change is directly affecting biodiversity in forests throughout the world. These impacts occur as a result of changes in temperature, rainfall, storm frequency and magnitude, fire frequency, and the frequency and magnitude of pest and disease outbreaks. However, in plantation forests it is not only the direct effects of climate change that will impact on biodiversity. Climate change will have strong indirect effects on biodiversity in plantation forests via changes in forest management actions that have been proposed to mitigate the effects of climate change on the productive capacity of plantations. These include changes in species selection (including use of species mixtures), rotation length, thinning, pruning, extraction of bioenergy feedstocks, and large scale climate change driven afforestation, reforestation, and, potentially deforestation. By bringing together the potential direct and indirect impacts of climate change we conclude that in the short to medium term changes in plantation management designed to mitigate or adapt to climate change could have a significantly greater impact on biodiversity in such plantation forests than the direct effects of climate change. Although this hypothesis remains to be formally tested, forest managers worldwide are already considering new approaches to plantation forestry in an effort to create forests that are more resilient to the effects of changing climatic conditions. Such change presents significant risks to existing biodiversity values in plantation forests, however it also provides new opportunities to improve biodiversity values within existing and new plantation forests. We conclude by suggesting future options, such as functional zoning and species mixtures applied at either the stand level or as fine-scale mosaics of single-species stands as options to improve biodiversity whilst increasing resilience to climate change.


Conservation Forestry Landscape ecology Indirect effects Climate/global change 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. M. Pawson
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. Brin
    • 2
  • E. G. Brockerhoff
    • 1
  • D. Lamb
    • 3
  • T. W. Payn
    • 4
  • A. Paquette
    • 5
  • J. A. Parrotta
    • 6
  1. 1.Scion (New Zealand Forest Research Institute)FendaltonNew Zealand
  2. 2.UMR INRA/INPT 1201 DynaforUniversity of Toulouse, Purpan Engineering SchoolToulouseFrance
  3. 3.Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation, University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  4. 4.Scion (New Zealand Forest Research Institute)RotoruaNew Zealand
  5. 5.Centre for Forest Research, Université du Québec à MontréalMontréalCanada
  6. 6.U.S. Forest Service, Research & DevelopmentArlingtonUSA

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