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Bruce G. Marcot, USDA Forest Service, 602 SW Main Street, Suite 400, Portland, Oregon 97205, USA,
Keith B. Aubry, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, 3625-93rd Avenue SW, Olympia, Washington 98512, USA
The ecological knowledge needed to achieve the goals of ecosystem management will not be limited to understanding the influence of habitat manipulations on desired mammal populations; it will also include an understanding of how those mammals contribute to the functioning of the ecosystems they occupy. Examples of the significant influence that mammals may have on the structure and function of ecosystems include the effects of sea otters (Enhydra lutris) on the community structure of coastal marine ecosystems (Estes and Palmisano 1974), the effects of American beavers (Castor canadensis) on the hydrology and ecology of temperate riparian ecosystems (Naiman et al. 1986, Anthony et al. 2003), the effects of burrowing mammals on soil fertility and stability (Meadows and Meadows 1991, Ayarbe and Kieft 2000), and the effects of large ungulates on successional processes and the structure of plant communities in a variety of ecosystems (Hobbs 1996). Each of these species or species groups has been described as a potential keystone species (Mills et al. 1993) in the ecosystems they occupy. Because most species of mammals may not influence ecosystem processes to the extent that keystone species do, their ecological contributions are often overlooked. We propose, however, that the collective importance of terrestrial mammals to ecosystem structure and function is substantial and that the decline or loss of forest mammal species could have detrimental effects on ecosystem diversity, productivity, or sustainability.
Keith B. Aubry, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, 3625-93rd Avenue SW, Olympia, Washington 98512, USA,
John P. Hayes, Department of Forest Science, Oregon State University, 201 Richardson Hall, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA,
Brian L. Biswell, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, 3625-93rd Avenue SW, Olympia, Washington 98512, USA,
Bruce G. Marcot, USDA Forest Service, 602 SW Main Street, Suite 400, Portland, Oregon 97205, USA
Three groups of mammals that occur in coniferous forests of western North America are closely associated with large healthy, decaying, or dead trees: bats, arboreal rodents, and forest carnivores. Detailed descriptions of the ecological relations of these species are presented elsewhere in this book (Buskirk and Zielinski 2003, Hayes 2003, Smith et al. 2003). Although many other kinds of mammals use large vertical forest structures to some degree, these are the species groups that depend on them to meet their life history requirements. Consequently, these are also the mammals that are most likely to suffer population declines in forests where these structures are reduced in abundance. The need to provide for large snags and decadent trees in managed forests to maintain populations of cavity-using birds and mammals has received much attention in the literature (e.g., Balda 1975, Thomas 1979, Hoover and Wills 1984, Brown 1985). However, the perceived consequences of providing inadequate numbers and sizes of these structures in managed forests have generally been limited to the decline or loss of the wildlife species that depend on them. The broader ecological consequences that could also result from the loss or decline of tree-dwelling birds and mammals have received relatively little attention (but see Machmer and Steeger 1995, Aubry and Raley 2002).
Managing forests primarily for timber production often involves not only the removal of a substantial proportion of large, healthy trees from each harvest unit, but also the elimination of large dead or decadent trees.
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