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Assessing the Effects of Management Alternatives on Habitat Suitability in a Forested Landscape of Northeastern China

Longru, Jin, He, Hong S., Yufei, Zhou, Rencang, Bu, Keping, Sun
Environmental management 2010 v.45 no.5 pp. 1191-1200
Cervus elaphus, Sciurus vulgaris, Tetrastes bonasia, age structure, biodiversity, clearcutting, cutting, field experimentation, forest management, forests, landscapes, models, squirrels, wildlife, wildlife habitats, China
Forest management often has cumulative, long-lasting effects on wildlife habitat suitability and the effects may be impractical to evaluate using landscape-scale field experiments. To understand such effects, we linked a spatially explicit landscape disturbance and succession model (LANDIS) with habitat suitability index (HSI) models to assess the effects of management alternatives on habitat suitability in a forested landscape of northeastern China. LANDIS was applied to simulate future forest landscape changes under four management alternatives (no cutting, clearcutting, selective cutting I and II) over a 200-year horizon. The simulation outputs were linked with HSI models for three wildlife species, the red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), the red deer (Cervus elaphus) and the hazel grouse (Bonasa bonasia). These species are chosen because they represent numerous species that have distinct habitat requirements in our study area. We assessed their habitat suitability based on the mean HSI values, which is a measure of the average habitat quality. Our simulation results showed that no one management scenario was the best for all species and various forest management scenarios would lead to conflicting wildlife habitat outcomes. How to choose a scenario is dependent on the trade-off of economical, ecological and social goals. Our modeling effort could provide decision makers with relative comparisons among management scenarios from the perspective of biodiversity conservation. The general simulation results were expected based on our knowledge of forest management and habitat relationships of the species, which confirmed that the coupled modeling approach correctly simulated the assumed relationships between the wildlife, forest composition, age structure, and spatial configuration of habitat. However, several emergent results revealed the unexpected outcomes that a management scenario may lead to.