What are the effects of even-aged and uneven-aged forest management on boreal forest biodiversity in Fennoscandia and European Russia? A systematic review


Forest harvesting changes forest habitat and impacts forest dependent species. Uneven-aged management is often considered better for biodiversity than even-aged management, but there is an ongoing discourse over the benefits and disadvantages of different silvicultural systems. This systematic review contributes to the public discussion and provides evidence for policy making by synthesising current evidence on impacts of even-aged and uneven-aged forest management on biodiversity in boreal forests of Fennoscandia and European Russia. In this review even-aged and uneven-aged forest management are compared directly to each other as well as to natural forest to provide a broad basis for public discussion.


Both peer-reviewed and grey literature were searched in bibliographical databases, organizational webpages and internet search engines in English, Finnish, Swedish and Russian. Articles were screened for relevance by their title/abstract and again by full text. The inclusion of studies was assessed against pre-defined criteria published in an a priori protocol. A narrative synthesis and meta-analysis were conducted to describe the evidence base and to compare species richness and abundance between differently managed forests. The influence of habitat specialism, taxon, years since harvesting, deadwood availability and harvesting intensity on species richness and abundance were also tested.

Review findings

Searching identified 43,621 articles of which 137 articles with 854 studies had independent data and were included in the narrative synthesis. Of those, 547 studies were included in the meta-analysis. The most studied taxa were arthropods, vascular plants, bryophytes, fungi, and lichens. Results showed that forests with less disturbance (uneven-aged and mature even-aged) host more forest dependent species than young even-aged forests (< 80 years old) although the difference was only marginally significant for mature even-aged forests (> 80 years old). Uneven-aged forest had similar number of species and individuals than natural forest whereas even-aged forest had less species than natural forest. Open habitat species and their individuals were more numerous in young even-aged forests and forests undergone retention harvest. Effect sizes found were mostly large indicating strong and uniform impact of forest management based on species’ habitat preferences. In addition to habitat specialism, years since harvest explained some of the differences found in species richness and abundance due to increase of open habitat species in the early successional stages and forest dependent species in late successional stages. Taxon had limited explanatory power.


Habitat preferences determine species’ response to different harvesting methods and the magnitude of effect is large. Less disturbance from harvesting is better for forest dependent species whereas opposite is true for open habitat species. Uneven-aged and mature even-aged forests (> 80 years old) are important to maintain biodiversity in boreal forests. However, the results also highlight that natural forests are needed to ensure the future of forest dependent species in Fennoscandia and European Russia. Given that a broader set of biodiversity aspects are to be protected, best overall biodiversity impacts for a variety of species at landscape level can be achieved by ensuring that there is a mosaic of different forests within landscapes.


Clearcut, Selection system, Continuous cover forestry, Species richness, Abundance


Biodiversity is vital for human well-being, but is threatened by human actions world-wide. In the boreal zone, harvesting and management of forests on an industrial scale is the most important factor driving habitat change and degradation. Over time different forest management regimes have been implemented but their impact on biodiversity at different spatial and temporal scales has not been systematically reviewed although non-systematic reviews on the topic exist. The aim of this article is to describe a protocol for a systematic review to synthesise and compare the impacts of two different forest management systems on biodiversity at different spatial and temporal scales. The topic for the systematic review arose from the discussions with the Finnish forestry sector and was further defined in a stakeholder workshop. Research questions addressed by the systematic review protocol are: (1) What are the stand-level effects of even-aged and uneven-aged forest management on boreal forest biodiversity in Fennoscandia and European Russia? (2) What is the effect of these same forest management systems on biodiversity at landscape level?


Animal, plant, and fungal diversity is addressed. Bibliographic databases and organizational websites will be searched, and internet search engines will be utilized to find relevant literature. The searches will be conducted in English, Finnish, Swedish, and Russian. Articles will be screened regarding the inclusion and exclusion criteria at title, abstract, and full-text stage. The validity of included studies will be evaluated against appraisal criteria and studies categorized based on their risk of bias. A narrative synthesis will be conducted to describe the findings. If enough quantitative data can be retrieved from the studies, a meta-analysis will be conducted.