Summary

This review of published scientific literature strongly indicates that clearcutting can be compatible with many wildlife species. In the studies we examined, clearcutting enhanced the quality, quantity, and availability of food and cover for white-tailed deer, moose, black bear, rabbit, hare, most game birds, all early successional songbirds, and several rodents. Snags and logging slash left after clearcutting benefited cavity nesting birds, raptors, and many amphibians and reptiles.

Although clearcutting enhances habitat for many species, there are several areas of concern. The most significant concern is the effect of clearcutting on amphibians because clearcutting results in a warmer, drier, less stable environment that seems inhospitable to them and may cause reproductive problems. Burning and other forms of site preparation following cutting also may reduce habitat quality for some amphibians. However, most studies in the pine flatwoods of the lower Coastal Plain found that overall herp biomass was not adversely affected by clearcutting. More research is needed on these species.

There also has been concern expressed that the fragmentation of large tracts of mature forest by harvesting timber might adversely affect area-sensitive or edge-avoiding species of birds. While most studies showed that such species are reduced in number near clearcuts, in most cases these species were not eliminated. Nest predation and parasitism were not higher in or near clearcuts unless the stands already were small due to the encroachment of roads, farms, and human habitation.

Although the vast majority of studies on deer indicated numerous benefits of clearcutting, one series of studies in the Southern Appalachian mountains found little deer use of clearcuts during winter. Another study found that oaks, a bonus deer food in good mast years, did not regenerate as readily as other tree species in a clearcut. Certainly, if cuttings and thinnings are not conducted frequently, food and cover may become scarce during interim years, creating a feast or famine situation that is not desirable. If clearcutting on good sites results in conversion of oak-dominated stands to species that yield little mast, some wildlife species can be adversely affected. It has also been demonstrated that intense site preparation following clearcutting over very large areas can be temporarily detrimental to some species.

The benefits of clearcutting for early successional associates generally decline in the sapling and poletimber stages of succession as the canopy begins to close. Poletimber stands are the least productive successional stage due to a greatly diminished ground cover and small, crowded tree crowns which yield little mast. However, thinnings and/or improvement cuttings during this comparatively unproductive period significantly increase both understory foods and soft and hard mast production.

 

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