Back to mapping primary forests

credits: Martin Mikolas

Forest and CO is formally over. I anticipate there is more to come, but for the moment you can see the results that we published here and here. Our project had quite an impact, I must say. I will describe its far-reaching consequences somewhere else, though. Rather than looking backwards, I’m here to tell you what’s going to happen.

Long story short. We are back in the game.

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The more (carbon in forest), the better (for biodiversity)?

Credits: S. Burrascano, F.M. Sabatini,

 Forests host a huge range of animals and plants, and provide a wealth of services to us, including the provision of timber and other forest products (mushrooms!), protection from landslides and avalanches in mountain areas, clean water and clean air. In addition, forests capture and store large amounts of carbon, mostly in wood and soils, thus contributing to mitigating climate change. When managing forests, we should keep all these services in mind, and since not all of them can be maximised at the same time, make choices and set priorities. In our paper ‘Trade‐offs between carbon stocks and biodiversity in European temperate forests, recently published in Global Change Biology, we focus on one of the possible trade-offs. Can we manage forests to both support biodiversity and maximize the amount of carbon they store? In short, can we fill two needs with one deed?

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Are we asking too much of species data?

To conserve biodiversity, we need a clear picture of how it is distributed. Easier said than done! Biodiversity is a short word for a wide concept. Even just counting the number of species in a forest can be an overwhelming task if one considers all insects, spiders, birds, mites, (ticks!), lichens, fungi, isopoda and so on. Not only, some of these groups are very difficult to identify, so sampling them all would require hundreds of hours to a team of well-trained field biologists.

Can we rely on one or few groups of species to make inferences on all the other, then? Although the use of indicators is a well-established routing, how well these indicators work in Southern European beech forest is not clearly understood. One of the open questions is: How well do indicators work at different scales? In our new article Congruence across taxa and spatial scales: Are we asking too much of species data?”, just published in Global Ecology and Biogeography, we tried to find an answer.

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Mapping the extinction debt in the Chaco

Although my heart beats for temperate forests, collaborating with Asunción Semper-Pascual took me for once (alas, only figuratively) to the tropical dry forests of the Argentinian Chaco, to do research on a very important questions:

Given the high rate of deforestation currently observed in the Chaco, what proportion of the mammal and bird diversity we currently observe in the landscape is deemed to go extinct in the near-future? In other words, is there an Extinction debt? And can we map it to highlight areas where a high extinction rate is expected, so to priotize areas in urgent need of restoration?

In the paper just published on the Journal of Applied Ecology, we showed we can.

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Why burning forests for Energy may not be a good idea. Flaws in the revised EU renewable energy Directive

The European Union is about to release a revised version of the Directive on renewable energy. The directive aims at doubling the current production of renewable energy by 2030, i.e. the provision of solar, wind, hydroelectric and bioenergy energy. Renewable is ‘good’, so it seems we are undertaking a new step towards sustainability and a green future- All really noble, but are we sure we are doing the right thing?

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Of Beta-diversity and its decrease with increasing elevation

Credits – Valerio Giacomini (1958) La Flora – Conosci L’italia, Touring Club Italiano. Milano

It’s a fact. Biodiversity is not uniformly distributed over the Earth’s surface. Some regions are lush with a rich, heterogeneous flora, others are homogeneously covered by only a few plant species. A recurrent pattern is the decrease of the number of animal and plant species from the equator to the poles, as well as from to low to high elevation. What happens when rather than considering the number of species, one focuses on the variability in species composition (=beta-diversity) and compares this variability across geographical regions?

We have just published a new study in Ecography to understand how beta-diversity varies along elevation gradients. There is evidence that, similarly to species richness, beta-diversity also decreases with increasing elevation and latitude. But what are the mechanisms behind this pattern?

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Thanks for your contribution

The Questionnaire phase of FORESTS and CO is now over.

FORESTS and CO is a collaborative project in which forest researchers and experts work together to make relevant, European-scale analysis on the potential trade-offs between multiple objectives of forest management. In this first phase, we collected information on the spatial distribution of primary forest remnants in the European region (continental Europe with the exception of Russia). Click here for the definitions of ‘Primary forest remnant’

What a better occasion to thank all the participants that contributed with their expertise and helped us understand what kind of data exists how to gather it!

In total we invited 134 people from 32 different European countries. The countries with the the highest share of people contacted were: Germany, Romania, Finland, Czech Republic and Italy.


Pie chart showing the breakdown of the nationalities of the forest scientists and experts invited to fill out the questionnaires

The rate of response was impressive. When accounting for both the responses to the questionnaires and the informal feedbacks, we were contacted by 65 forest researchers and experts, a ratio of response close to 50%. The countries from which we received the highest share of responses were Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Germany and Romania.
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Who came first? Wild boar effects in a Mediterranean forest

Cover Photo by Tim Clifton / CC BY


I am happy to announce that a new paper I contributed to is now out in Community Ecology © Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest. This work is the result of couple of years of work of a great team of vegetation scientists and animal ecologists, with whom I had the luck to work for the last 4 years, and to whom I wish all the best.



Why focusing on wild boar in a blog that talks about forests?

The point is that the populations of wild boar (Sus scrofa) in Europe have grown substantially in recent decades, not to mention Central Italy, where the study is focused. Indeed, this species is able to adapt to different environments, and for sure, it was highly favoured by a combination of reintroduction for hunting purposes, increasing tree mast frequency (climate change?), insufficient hunting pressure, and lack of predators.

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