High plant species richness indicates management-related disturbances rather than the conservation status of forests

Boch, Steffen; Prati, Daniel; Müller, Jörg; Socher, Stephanie; Baumbach, Henryk; Buscot, François; Gockel, Sonja; Hemp, Andreas; Hessenmöller, Dominik; Kalko, Elisabeth K.V.; Linsenmair, K. Eduard; Pfeiffer, Simone; Pommer, Ulf; Schöning, Ingo; Schulze, Ernst-Detlef; Seilwinder, Claudia; Weisser, Wolfgang W.; Wells, Konstans; Fischer, Markus (2013). High plant species richness indicates management-related disturbances rather than the conservation status of forests. Basic and applied ecology, 14(6), pp. 496-505. Elsevier 10.1016/j.baae.2013.06.001

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There is a wealth of smaller-scale studies on the effects of forest management on plant diversity. However, studies comparing plant species diversity in forests with different management types and intensity, extending over different regions and forest stages, and including detailed information on site conditions are missing. We studied vascular plants on 1500 20 m × 20 m forest plots in three regions of Germany (Schwäbische Alb, Hainich-Dün, Schorfheide-Chorin). In all regions, our study plots comprised different management types (unmanaged, selection cutting, deciduous and coniferous age-class forests, which resulted from clear cutting or shelterwood logging), various stand ages, site conditions, and levels of management-related disturbances. We analyzed how overall richness and richness of different plant functional groups (trees, shrubs, herbs, herbaceous species typically growing in forests and herbaceous light-demanding species) responded to the different management types. On average, plant species richness was 13% higher in age-class than in unmanaged forests, and did not differ between deciduous age-class and selection forests. In age-class forests of the Schwäbische Alb and Hainich-Dün, coniferous stands had higher species richness than deciduous stands. Among age-class forests, older stands with large quantities of standing biomass were slightly poorer in shrub and light-demanding herb species than younger stands. Among deciduous forests, the richness of herbaceous forest species was generally lower in unmanaged than in managed forests, and it was even 20% lower in unmanaged than in selection forests in Hainich-Dün. Overall, these findings show that disturbances by management generally increase plant species richness. This suggests that total plant species richness is not suited as an indicator for the conservation status of forests, but rather indicates disturbances.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Plant Ecology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)

UniBE Contributor:

Boch, Steffen, Prati, Daniel, Socher, Stephanie, Fischer, Markus


500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)








Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

02 Nov 2013 10:11

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:26

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Biodiversity Exploratories, Coniferous plantations, Disturbance, Ellenberg indicator values, Forest management, Selection vs. age-class forests, Silviculture, Standing biomass, Typical forest species; Unmanaged vs. managed forests





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