We summarize the documented and potential impacts of salvage logging—a form of logging that removes trees and other biological material from sites after natural disturbance. Such operations may reduce or eliminate biological legacies, modify rare postdisturbance habitats, influence populations, alter community composition, impair natural vegetation recovery, facilitate the colonization of invasive species, alter soil properties and nutrient levels, increase erosion, modify hydrological regimes and aquatic ecosystems, and alter patterns of landscape heterogeneity. These impacts can be assigned to three broad and interrelated effects: (1) altered stand structural complexity; (2) altered ecosystem processes and functions; and (3) altered populations of species and community composition. Some impacts may be different from or additional to the effects of traditional logging that is not preceded by a large natural disturbance because the conditions before, during, and after salvage logging may differ from those that characterize traditional timber harvesting. The potential impacts of salvage logging often have been overlooked, partly because the processes of ecosystem recovery after natural disturbance are still poorly understood and partly because potential cumulative effects of natural and human disturbance have not been well documented. Ecologically informed policies regarding salvage logging are needed prior to major natural disturbances so that when they occur ad hoc and crisis-mode decision making can be avoided. These policies should lead to salvage-exemption zones and limits on the amounts of disturbance-derived biological legacies (e.g., burned trees, logs) that are removed where salvage logging takes place. Finally, we believe new terminology is needed. The word salvage implies that something is being saved or recovered, whereas from an ecological perspective this is rarely the case.
Lindenmayer, D. B. and R.F. Noss. 2006. Salvage logging, ecosystem processes, and biodiversity conservation. Conservation Biology 20: 949-958.