Log/remove trees within forests: effects on non-vascular plants

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
  • Certainty
  • Harms

Study locations

Key messages

  • Two of three studies (including one replicated, paired sites study) in Australia, Norway and Sweden found logging trees in forests decreased epiphytic plant abundance and fern fertility. One found mixed effects depending on species.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A site comparison study in 1991-1994 in wet eucalyptus forest in Victoria, Australia (Ough & Murphey 1996) found that logging trees decreased the percentage of fertile tree ferns and the number of living leaves, but not the number of leaves produced. The percentage of fertile ferns (thinned: 30-31%; control: 86-89%) and the number of living leaves/fern (thinned: 2-11; control: 22-29) was higher in control sites, while the annual number of leaves/fern produced was similar between sites (thinned: 10; control: 14-18). Two tree ferns, soft tree fern Dicksonia antarctica and rough tree fern Cyathea australis,were monitored in five 30 × 30 m plots in a 12 ha thinned site (logged in 1991-1992). An additional 51 soft tree fern and nine rough tree fern individuals were monitored in unlogged sites. Data were collected two years after thinning.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A controlled study in 1995-2001 in boreal forest in Norway (Hilmo, Hytteborn & Holien 2005) found that logging decreased cover and abundance of lichens. For Cavernularia hultenii, cover and abundance (number of lichen branches/m branch length) were lower in sites that were thinned by cutting few relatively large gaps (cover: 2.4%; abundance: 2.6) than in sites that were thinned by cutting a large number of relatively small gaps (cover: 4.2%; abundance: 5.5). Cover and abundance were the highest in unthinned sites (cover: 6.2%; abundance: 8.4). For Platismatia glauca cover (large gaps: 22.6%; small gaps: 30.4%; unthinned: 29.1%) and abundance (large gaps: 9.1; small gaps: 13.3; unthinned: 13.8) were lower in large gaps sites than in small gaps and unthinned sites. For Norwegian ragged lichen Platismatia norvegica cover (3.0-3.7%) and abundance (0.6-0.9) were similar between treatments.  A 100 ha area was divided into large gaps (three clearcuts of 150 × 150 m), small gaps (23 clearcuts of 50 × 50 m) and unthinned sections. Logging was applied in 1995-1996. Lichens were monitored in 2001 on 110 trees (>40 cm diameter at breast height): 45 in each logging treatment and 20 in the unlogged section.

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A replicated, paired sites study in 1997-2001 in boreal forest in Sweden (Dynesius & Hylander 2007) found that loggingt decreased the number of liverwort and increased the number of moss species. Numbers of liverwort species/plot (0.1 ha) was lower in thinned plots than in uncut, both in the short-term (cut: 25; uncut: 33) and long-term (cut: 27; uncut: 32).  Numbers of moss species/plot was higher in cut than in uncut plots in the short-term (cut: 53; uncut: 47) and similar in the long-term (48). Total number of bryophytes species/plot was similar in both short-term (cut: 78; uncut: 80) and long-term (cut: 75; uncut: 80). Liverworts and mosses were monitored in 2001 in 15 short-term (cut in 1998) and 18 long-term (cut in 1950-1970) pairs of cut and uncut 20 × 50 m plots.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Agra, H., Schowanek, S., Carmel, Y., Smith, R.K. & Ne’eman, G. (2020) Forest Conservation. Pages 323-366 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.


Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

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Forest Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Forest Conservation
Forest Conservation

Forest Conservation - Published 2016

Forest synopsis

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What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

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