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Role of fallen logs in maintaining the species diversity of understory vascular plants in a mixed coniferous and broad-leaved forest in Hokkaido, northern Japan

Okada, Momoko, Hirao, Toshihide, Kaji, Mikio, Goto, Susumu
Forest ecology and management 2019 v.448 pp. 249-255
biodiversity conservation, boreal forests, canopy, correspondence analysis, deciduous forests, environmental factors, forest litter, habitats, herbaceous plants, linear models, logging, mosses and liverworts, multivariate analysis, saplings, seedlings, soil depth, species richness, summer, surface area, timber production, understory, vascular plants, wood, woody plants, Japan
One long-standing, unresolved issue in forest management is how to achieve high levels of biodiversity conservation and commercial forestry for timber production. Retaining fallen logs on the forest floor is effective in preserving the habitats essential for many wood-dwelling organisms. However, the contributions of fallen logs toward the plant species diversity of forest understories are less clear, even though the importance of fallen logs on the emergence and survival of coniferous seedlings and saplings is well known, especially in boreal forests. This study aimed to clarify the roles of fallen logs in the maintenance of species diversity of understory vascular plants in forests. We investigated species richness and the composition of vascular plants on 319 fallen logs and in 128 forest-floor quadrats (2 × 2 m) in a 4-ha plot in a mixed coniferous and broad-leaved forest in Hokkaido, northern Japan. We also measured canopy openness in summer, surface area, wood resistance, and moss cover of fallen logs, and soil thickness in forest-floor quadrats. Additive partitioning and permutational multivariate analysis of variance (PERMANOVA) were used to examine differences in composition between quadrats and fallen logs. Generalized linear model (GLM) and canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) were also applied to test the determinants of species richness and composition in quadrats and fallen logs. In total, 83 vascular plant species were identified. For woody and herbaceous plants, several species occurred predominantly on fallen logs in comparison with quadrats. Species richness of woody plants on fallen logs was positively affected by surface area and moss cover, and negatively by wood resistance; although in quadrats it was not significantly associated with any environmental factors. Herbaceous species richness on fallen logs was also negatively influenced by wood resistance. In contrast, herbaceous species richness in quadrats was positively associated with canopy openness. These results suggest that fallen logs promote plant species diversity, including herbaceous plants, by creating habitat conditions favored in forest understory environments. This study implies that leaving fallen logs on the forest floor at logging sites contributes toward plant diversity conservation.