High plant species richness indicates management-related disturbances rather than the conservation status of forests

No Thumbnail Available
File version
Boch, Steffen
Prati, Daniel
Muller, Jorg
Socher, Stephanie A.
Baumbach, Henryk
Buscot, Francois
Gockel, Sonja
Hemp, Andreas
Hessenmöller, Dominik
Kalko, Elisabeth K. V.
Linsenmair, K. Eduard
Pfeiffer, Simone
Pommer, Ulf
Schöning, Ingo
Schulze, Ernst-Detlef
Seilwinder, Claudia
Weisser, Wolfgang W.
Wells, Konstans
Fischer, Markus
Griffith University Author(s)
Primary Supervisor
Other Supervisors
File type(s)

There is a wealth of smaller-scale studies on the effects of forest management on plant diversity. However, studies comparing plant species diversity in forests with different management types and intensity, extending over different regions and forest stages, and including detailed information on site conditions are missing. We studied vascular plants on 1500 20 m × 20 m forest plots in three regions of Germany (Schwäbische Alb, Hainich-Dün, Schorfheide-Chorin). In all regions, our study plots comprised different management types (unmanaged, selection cutting, deciduous and coniferous age-class forests, which resulted from clear cutting or shelterwood logging), various stand ages, site conditions, and levels of management-related disturbances. We analyzed how overall richness and richness of different plant functional groups (trees, shrubs, herbs, herbaceous species typically growing in forests and herbaceous light-demanding species) responded to the different management types. On average, plant species richness was 13% higher in age-class than in unmanaged forests, and did not differ between deciduous age-class and selection forests. In age-class forests of the Schwäbische Alb and Hainich-Dün, coniferous stands had higher species richness than deciduous stands. Among age-class forests, older stands with large quantities of standing biomass were slightly poorer in shrub and light-demanding herb species than younger stands. Among deciduous forests, the richness of herbaceous forest species was generally lower in unmanaged than in managed forests, and it was even 20% lower in unmanaged than in selection forests in Hainich-Dün. Overall, these findings show that disturbances by management generally increase plant species richness. This suggests that total plant species richness is not suited as an indicator for the conservation status of forests, but rather indicates disturbances.

Journal Title

Basic and Applied Ecology

Conference Title
Book Title




Thesis Type
Degree Program
Publisher link
Patent number
Grant identifier(s)
Rights Statement
Rights Statement
Item Access Status
Access the data
Related item(s)

Plant Biology not elsewhere classified

Environmental Sciences

Biological Sciences

Persistent link to this record