Temperate forests in Northeast China have been severely exploited by timber harvesting in the last century. To reverse this trend, China implemented the Classified Forest Management policy in the Natural Forest Conservation Program in 1998 to protect forests from excessive harvesting. However, the policy was unable to meet the 2020 commitment of increasing growing stock (set in the Kyoto Protocol) because of high-intensity harvesting. Accordingly, China banned all commercial harvesting in Northeast China in 2014. In this study, we investigated the long-term impacts of the no commercial harvest (NCH) policy on ecosystem services and biodiversity using a forest landscape model, LANDIS PRO 7.0, in the temperate forests of the Small Khingan Mountains, Northeast China. We designed three management scenarios: The H scenario (the Classified Forest Management policy used in the past), the NCH scenario (the current Commercial Harvest Exclusion policy), and the LT scenario (mitigation management, i.e., light thinning). We compared total aboveground forest biomass, biomass by tree species, abundance of old-growth forests, and diversity of tree species and age class in three scenarios from 2010 to 2100. We found that compared with the H scenario, the NCH scenario increased aboveground forest biomass, abundance of old-growth forests, and biomass of most timber species over time; however, it decreased the biomass of rare and protected tree species and biodiversity. We found that the LT scenario increased the biomass of rare and protected tree species and biodiversity in comparison with the NCH scenario, while it maintained aboveground forest biomass and abundance of old-growth forests at a high level (slightly less than the NCH scenario). We concluded there was trade-off between carbon storage and biodiversity. We also concluded that light thinning treatment was able to regulate the trade-off and alleviate the negative effects associated with the NCH policy. Our results highlighted limitations of the NCH policy and provided new insights into sustainable forest management and the interdependence between human society and the forest ecosystem.
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