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Keywords:

  • afforestation;
  • cryptogam;
  • dead wood;
  • dispersal;
  • hemiboreal forest;
  • structural restoration

Abstract

For biodiversity, natural afforestation is generally more favorable than plantation-based afforestation, but the difference may be less important if both methods fail to provide habitats for sensitive old-forest species. Given that some conditions, such as substrates, can be actively restored in new forests, their effect on biodiversity should be separated from dispersal limitation. We asked whether, and to what extent, lichen and bryophyte vegetation is impoverished on old-forest substrates in non-intensively afforested lands of the twentieth century compared with similar substrates in managed long-term forestlands. We measured the diversity and abundance of all lichens and bryophytes as well as the cover of human-sensitive (hemerophobic) species on large deciduous trees, logs, snags, and windthrows on 30 random 2-km transects in a 900-km2 forest landscape in Estonia, hemiboreal Europe. Altogether, 235 species, including 39 hemerophobic species, were detected on 781 structural elements. New forests were not significantly worse than long-term forests in any of the cryptogam community characteristics, which was explained by the predominance of natural afforestation (many native tree species present), time for substrate development and cryptogam dispersal (most stands >40 years old), few cuttings in the new forests (only about 20% of stands thinned), and short distances to long-term forests (67% of substrates within 250 m). Under such conditions, afforested areas appeared to be as suitable as traditional managed forests both for developing multifunctional forestry and as starting points for habitat restoration for threatened species.