• Open Access

A meta-analysis of bird and mammal response to short-rotation woody crops


Sam Riffell, tel. +1 662 325 0392, fax +1 662 325 8726, e-mail: sriffell@cfr.msstate.edu


Short-rotation woody cropping (SRWC) refers to silvicultural systems designed to produce woody biomass using short harvest cycles (1–15 years), intensive silvicultural techniques, high-yielding varieties, and often coppice regeneration. Recent emphasis on alternatives to fossil fuels has spurred interest in producing SRWC on privately owned and intensively managed forests of North America. We examined potential bird and small mammal response at the stand level to conversion of existing, intensively managed forests to SRWCs using meta-analysis of existing studies. We found 257 effect sizes for birds (243 effect sizes) and mammals (14 effect sizes) from 8 studies involving Populus spp. plantations. Diversity and abundance of bird guilds were lower on short-rotation plantations compared with reference woodlands, while abundance of individual bird species was more variable and not consistently higher or lower on SRWC plantations. Shrub-associated birds were more abundant on SRWC plantations, but forest-associated and cavity-nesting birds were less abundant. Effects on birds appeared to decrease with age of the SRWC plantation, but plantation age was also confounded with variation in the type of reference forest used for comparison. Both guilds and species of mammals were less abundant on SRWC plantations. These conclusions are tentative because none of these studies directly compared SRWC plantations to intensively managed forests. Plantations of SRWCs could contribute to overall landscape diversity in forest-dominated landscapes by providing shrubby habitat structure for nonforest species. However, extensive conversion of mature or intensively managed forests to SRWC would likely decrease overall diversity, especially if they replace habitat types of high conservation value.