Living on the edge : effectiveness of buffer strips in protecting biodiversity on boreal riparian forests

Sammanfattning: The objective of this thesis is to evaluate the ecological consequences of buffer strip retention on riparian and terrestrial biodiversity. Earlier studies on forest buffer strips have evaluated their effectiveness in relation to water quality and aquatic biota. However, forests along streams are species rich habitats for many organism groups. Buffer strip management is assumed to be important also for protecting such species. Current approaches to biodiversity-oriented forest management practices need to be scientifically evaluated. In this thesis the effects on bryophytes and land snails have been evaluated.A before-and-after experiment along 15 small streams in northern Sweden showed that buffer strips of 10 m on each side of the stream moderated the negative effects exhibited at the clear-cuts. The number of land snail species remained similar as to before logging and the number of vanished bryophyte species was lower in the buffer strips than in the clear-cuts. The ground moisture influenced the survival rate of land snails at the clear-cuts. At mesic sites many species vanished but at wet sites the snail fauna was unaffected by the logging.Many bryophyte species, most of them liverworts, decreased or disappeared in the buffer strips. These were mostly growing on substrates elevated from the forest floor, such as logs, stumps and tree-bases. A number of nationally red-listed species, sensitive for changes in microclimate, were among those decreasing most. Thus, for the species in most need of protection the buffer strips were too narrow.An experiment with bryophyte transplants followed over a season showed that wet ground moisture moderated the negative edge effects in narrow buffer strips. On the other hand, the growth in mesic and moist sites was almost as low as in comparable clear-cuts.Microclimatic edge effects are stronger at south facing than north-facing edges of forest clear-cuts. This was shown in an experiment using bryophyte growth as an indicator of differences in microclimate. However, the depth of edge influence seemed to be similar between north- and south-facing forest edges, >30 m for one species. An explanation for this could be that wind penetrates deeper into edges than solar radiation and has a more variable direction.In conclusion, narrow buffer strips consist entirely of edge habitat. For many species the environment in buffer strips is good enough for persistence. For others, most notably bryophyte species on convex substrates, wider buffer strips are needed to ensure long-term survival.

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