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The response of mammals to forest fire and timber harvest in the North American boreal forest


  • Editor: RM

J. T. Fisher. E-mail:


1. This paper reviews and compares the effects of forest fire and timber harvest on mammalian abundance and diversity, throughout successional time in the boreal forest of North America.

2. Temporal trends in mammal abundance and diversity are generally similar for both harvested and burned stands, with some differences occurring in the initiation stage (0–10 years post disturbance).

3. Small mammals and ungulates are most abundant immediately post disturbance, and decrease as stands age. Lynxes and hares utilize mid-successional stands, but are rare in young and old stands. Bats, arboreal sciurids and mustelids increase in abundance with stand age, and are most abundant in old growth.

4. Substantial gaps in the data exist for carnivores; the response of these species to fire and harvest requires research, as predator–prey interactions can affect mammal community structure in both early and late successional stages.

5. The lack of explicit treatment of in-stand forest structure post disturbance, in the reviewed literature made comparisons difficult. Where forest structure was considered, the presence of downed woody material, live residual trees and standing dead wood were shown to facilitate convergence of mammal communities to a pre-disturbance state for both disturbance types.

6. Mammalian assemblages differed considerably between successional stages, emphasizing the importance of maintaining stands of each successional stage on the landscape when implementing forest management strategies.