The effects of logging on wildlife have been evaluated mainly in landscapes dominated by even-aged forest stands, leaving the impacts of harvesting on wildlife in irregularly structured stands less documented. We assessed the response of small mammals and birds to 4 silvicultural treatments with different levels of tree retention (from < 10% to 73%) in old-growth boreal forests of eastern Canada, where approximately 70% of stands have irregular structure. The experimental design controlled for local variation in the abundance of forest birds and small mammals by pairing each experimental harvested stand with an uncut stand. We found that species richness of small mammals and birds did not vary according to tree retention. Moss cover and vertical cover influenced small mammal community composition, whereas forest bird assemblages responded to conifer basal area, vertical cover, and snag availability. Species associated with silvicultural practices entailing retention levels > 55% included those that prefer closed canopy, such as the brown creeper (Certhia americana), ruby-crowned kinglet (Regulus calendula), and red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi). Our study demonstrates that silvicultural practices with retention levels > 55% are the most suitable for mitigating the impact of logging on animal communities in old-growth irregularly structured stands.
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Vol. 17 • No. 3