Forest clear-cuts as habitat for farmland birds and butterflies

Dafne Ram*, Åke Lindström, Lars B. Pettersson, Paul Caplat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


The intensification of agriculture has resulted in more homogeneous landscapes and declines of many species associated with farmland or other semi-natural open habitats. In parallel, forestry has also intensified causing declines in many species associated with old-growth forests. While intensive forestry negatively affects forest species, it inadvertently creates new habitats such as clear-cuts, which attracts some farmland species. To understand the potential of clear-cuts as alternative habitat for farmland species, we need to know what makes clear-cuts attractive and whether they are suitable for reproduction and survival. We reviewed literature on the occurrence of farmland birds and butterflies in forest clear-cuts and synthesise the current knowledge on factors and characteristics affecting their occurrence. Many farmland birds and butterflies do indeed use clear-cuts, and have been found in clear-cuts up to ten years after felling. Clear-cut characteristics of importance include age, size, retention structures, land-use history and landscape composition. However, direct measures of resource abundance such as food and hostplants are often lacking. In addition to the potential benefit of individual clear-cuts, the total clear-cut area in forested regions is often large. Together with the fact that clear-cuts may be occupied by farmland species for several years, the potential of clear-cuts as alternative habitat for farmland biodiversity is substantial. Clear-cuts with a history as meadows, the presence of species of conservation importance, or shorter distance to farmland could for example be motivations for focusing conservation efforts on farmland species instead of forest species. Gaining more knowledge on how farmland species use clear-cuts, and what characteristics they depend on, could help inform management guidelines. We are no advocates for forest clear-cuts, but given their ubiquity in forested landscapes, the potential of clear-cuts as alternative habitats for species suffering from loss of suitable farmland habitats is worth serious attention from a conservation perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118239
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Early online date16 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Conservation
  • Novel habitat
  • Production forestry
  • Review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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