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Environ Monit Assess. 2017 Aug;189(8):392. doi: 10.1007/s10661-017-6105-1. Epub 2017 Jul 13.

The impact of forest roads on understory plant diversity in temperate hornbeam-beech forests of Northern Iran.

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Department of Forestry and Forest Economics, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran.
Department of Forestry and Forest Economics, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran.
Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, USA.
Department of Life Sciences, Università degli Studi di Siena, Siena, Italy.
Department of Forestry, Tarbiat Modares University, Noor, Iran.


Forest roads alter the biotic and abiotic components of ecosystems, modifying temperature, humidity, wind speed, and light availability that, in turn, cause changes in plant community composition and diversity. We aim at investigating and comparing the diversity of herbaceous species along main and secondary forest roads in a temperate-managed hornbeam-beech forest, north of Iran. Sixteen transects along main and secondary forest roads were established (eight transects along main roads and eight along secondary roads). To eliminate the effect of forest type, all transects were located in Carpinetum-Fagetum forests, the dominant forest type in the study area. The total length of each transect was 200 m (100 m toward up slope and 100 m toward down slope), and plots were established along it at different distances from road edge. The diversity of herbaceous plant species was calculated in each plot using Shannon-Wiener index, species richness, and Pielou's index. The results showed that diversity index decreased when distance from road edge increases. This decreasing trend continued up to 60 m from forest road margin, and after this threshold, the index slightly increased. Depending on the type of road (main or secondary) as well as cut or fill slopes, the area showing a statistical different plant composition and diversity measured through Shannon-Wiener, species richness, and Pielou's index is up to 10 m. The length depth of the road edge effect found in main and secondary forest roads was small, but it could have cumulative effects on forest microclimate and forest-associated biota at the island scale. Forest managers should account for the effect of road buildings on plant communities.


Edge effects; Forest plant diversity; Hyrcanian mixed forests ecoregion; Road disturbance; Road ecology

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