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, Pixabay.com

 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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Look who’s back! A visit from Rosalia alpina

Photo Credits: Daniele Di Santo

I have already mentioned the FAGUS project in a previous post (“The mess of sampling biodiversity”, where I described the results we obtained when analyzing the pre-intervention biodiversity data, as they are published in the paper (open access):

One taxon does not fit all: Herb-layer diversity and stand structural complexity are weak predictors of biodiversity in Fagus sylvatica forests

I just got a great news today from the staff of the LIFE+ project – FAGUS, Daniele Di Santo (Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park) and Sabina Burrascano (Sapienza, University of Rome). A pair of individuals of Rosalia alpina were found in one of the intervention areas of the project. Read below!

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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.

 

Survey_invitation_pieChart
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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FORESTS & CO – Overview

Background

Forests play a major role in the global carbon cycle, contain a substantial proportion of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, and are valued for the services they provide to society1,2. Forest products alone are estimated at $120 billion annually3, although this estimation disregards the value of regulating, cultural and supporting services3. Importantly, forests are major carbon pools and play a critical role in mitigating climate change4, while harboring the majority of the world’s biodiversity2.

Unfortunately, the rate of biodiversity loss is still alarmingly high and accelerates5, which is worrisome considering emerging close links between biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and human well-being.

A large body of evidence now suggests biodiversity loss affects the functioning of ecosystems. Likewise, high species diversity is often associated with high productivity and ecosystem service (ES) provisioning, including carbon storage and sequestration. Protecting forests and managing them sustainably is therefore important both to preserve biodiversity, and the services it underpins. However, our ability to understand the consequences of biodiversity loss on the supply of a portfolio of multiple ES is still incomplete.

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Definitions – Old-Growth/Primeval/Virgin?

The romantic idea that forests were totally unimpacted by humans until a few centuries ago is a misconception, at least for Europe. When defining a forest like primeval, pristine or virgin, authors have often claimed those forests were never subject to human impact, although this approach may be misleading. Indeed humans have existed for hundreds of thousands of years and had a great potential impact on forest ecosystems at least since they started to use fire, more than 200.000 years ago. Nowadays, indirect impacts, such as the increase in greenhouse gases or in nitrogen deposition, have also become particularly pervasive, with repercussions on forest processes and patterns worldwide. For these reasons, forests totally unimpacted by man are unlikely to exist, although few stands in remote areas may approach this condition.

Several overlapping concepts have been used to describe original, natural or near-natural woodland, and this has been a severe source of misunderstanding.  Terms such as virgin or old-growth forests have sometimes been used ambiguously. Besides, a plethora of other terms were also used, such as natural, pre-settlement, primary, primeval, pristine, relict forests and others, and diversity of languages adds to this complexity.
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