Fallen coarse woody debris (CWD) is critical to forest biodiversity and function. Few studies model factors that influence CWD availability, although such investigations are critically needed to inform sustainable forest management. We assess benchmark levels of CWD in unharvested native forests and those harvested for timber, across a range of forests in north-east New South Wales, Australia. We found timber-harvesting was the dominant driver of CWD, with almost double the count (pieces ha−1) and volume (m3 ha−1) of total CWD in selectively harvested than unharvested sites. This pattern was consistent across wet and dry forest types. Harvested sites had greater counts of hollow-bearing logs, and greater volumes of small and medium-sized CWD (15–50 cm diameter) than unharvested sites. There was no effect of harvesting on the volume of large CWD (>51 cm diameter). Total volumes of CWD (>15 cm diameter) varied from 114 to 166 m3 ha−1. We found few differences in CWD counts and volumes between forest types, with grassy woodlands and forests containing less CWD than other dry and shrubby forest types, reflecting lower potential input rates. The CWD levels recorded here are similar to those recorded in dry and wet sclerophyll forests elsewhere in Australia and are typical of global estimates for ‘old growth’ forests. Using general linear models we captured up to 57% of the variation in CWD across sites, and found that timber harvesting, topography and the numbers of standing hollow-bearing and dead trees were significant predictors of CWD. Values for unharvested forest provide a benchmark that could be used to inform retention guidelines for CWD in managed forests in this region. Further assessment of the effect of repeat timber harvesting is needed to fully understand its impact on CWD dynamics, especially if forest residues resulting from timber harvesting are removed from native forests for bioenergy production.
- ecological benchmarks
- fallen logs
- forest biomass
- forest residue
- sustainable forest management