Publication Details

A meta-analysis of the effects of tree retention on shrubland birds

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Akresh, Michael E.; King, David I; Lott, Casey A.; Larkin, Jeffery L.; D'Amato, Anthony W.

Year Published



Forest Ecology and Management


The effects of forest management on native fauna are of key interest to managers and conservationists. Individual studies have expanded our knowledge of management impacts, but meta-analyses of multiple studies are needed to summarize and integrate findings into a more generalizable form. Most meta-analyses on the effects of tree harvesting have focused on mature forest taxa because of concerns for these species; however, early-successional specialists, such as shrubland birds in the eastern United States, are also of key conservation concern. Using data from 34 studies that examined the effects of silvicultural treatments on bird communities, we conducted a meta-analysis to determine the effects of tree retention on a suite of bird species reported to be associated with shrubland habitats within the northeastern United States. Of 21 putative shrubland bird species for which we had sufficient sample sizes for analyses, most (62%) exhibited monotonic declines of density with increasing tree retention, defined as percent basal area or canopy cover retained. Five other species (24%) exhibited quadratic relationships with tree retention. Finally, three additional species (14%) considered to be shrubland birds did not exhibit significant relationships with tree retention. We also calculated density estimates of shrubland birds in three categorical classifications of basal area retention corresponding to common management regimes: regeneration harvests with little retention (clearcut and seed-tree methods), regeneration harvests with moderate retention (shelterwoods), and high retention management regimes (commercial thinning, selection methods, no management). Many of the shrubland species had high densities in clearcuts as well as in stands with low levels (5-25%) of mature tree retention, and some species had equally high densities in stands with moderate tree retention (30-70%), supporting the use of retention forestry approaches, which can provide other benefits associated with mature trees. Overall, our findings provide managers and conservationists with robust, quantitative relationships of shrubland birds with tree retention. Managers can use these quantitative relationships for more detailed planning and evaluation of silvicultural projects, more so than what was feasible using previous findings of shrubland bird responses to discrete silvicultural treatments from disparate studies.


Avian; Logging; Review; Silviculture; Tree harvest; Young forest


Akresh, Michael E.; King, David I.; Lott, Casey A.; Larkin, Jeffery L.; D'Amato, Anthony W. 2021. A meta-analysis of the effects of tree retention on shrubland birds. Forest Ecology and Management. 483: 118730-.

Last updated on: October 1, 2021