Concentrating anthropogenic disturbance to balance ecological and economic values: applications to forest management


  • Corresponding Editor: V. C. Radeloff.


To maintain healthy ecosystems, natural-disturbance-based management aims to minimize differences between unmanaged and managed landscapes. Two related approaches may help accomplish this goal, either applied together or in isolation: (1) concentrating anthropogenic disturbance through zoning (with protected areas and intensive management); and (2) emulating natural disturbances. The purpose of this paper is to examine the effects of these two approaches, applied both in isolation and in combination, on the structure of the forest landscape. To do so, we use a spatially explicit landscape simulation model on a large fire-dominated landscape in eastern Canada. Specifically, we examine the effects of (1) increasing the maximum size of logged stands (cutblocks) to better emulate the full range of fire sizes in a fire-dominated landscape, (2) increasing protected areas, and (3) adding aggregated or dispersed intensive wood production areas to the landscape in addition to protected areas (triad management). We focus on maximizing the amount and minimizing the fragmentation of old-growth forest and on reducing road construction. Increasing maximum cutblock size and adding protected areas led to reduced road construction, while the latter also resulted in less fragmentation and more old growth. Although protected areas led to reduced harvest volume, the addition of an intensive production zone (triad management) counterbalanced this loss and resulted in more old growth than equivalent scenarios with protected areas but no intensive production zone. However, we found no differences between aggregated and dispersed intensive wood production. Our results imply that differences between unmanaged and managed landscapes can be reduced by concentrating logging efforts through a combination of protected areas and intensive wood production, and by creating some larger cutblocks. We conclude that the forest industry and regulators should therefore seek to increase protected areas through triad management and consider increasing maximum cutblock size. These results add to a growing body of literature indicating that intensive management on a small part of the landscape may be better than less intensive management spread out over a much larger part of the landscape, whether this is in the context of forestry, agriculture, or urban development.