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Projects / Programmes source: ARRS

Improving the network of forest reserves in Slovenia: naturalness assessment, possibilities of enlargement, management, research, and knowledge transfer.

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
4.01.01  Biotechnical sciences  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Forest - forestry 

Code Science Field
B430  Biomedical sciences  Sylviculture, forestry, forestry technology 

Code Science Field
4.01  Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences  Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries 
Keywords
forest reserve; environmental change; monitoring; forest dynamics
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (8)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publications
1.  08376  PhD Igor Dakskobler  Biology  Researcher  2011 - 2013  667 
2.  11253  PhD Jurij Diaci  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2011 - 2013  698 
3.  29426  PhD Dejan Firm  Biotechnical sciences  Junior researcher  2011 - 2013  57 
4.  27544  PhD Thomas Andrew Nagel  Biotechnical sciences  Principal Researcher  2011 - 2013  213 
5.  24368  PhD Andrej Rozman  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2011 - 2013  107 
6.  21043  PhD Dušan Roženbergar  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Technician  2011 - 2013  217 
7.  30432  Tihomir Rugani    Technician  2011 - 2013  36 
8.  10264  PhD Primož Simončič  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2011 - 2013  680 
Organisations (3)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publications
1.  0404  Slovenian Forestry Institute  Ljubljana  5051673000  11,847 
2.  0481  University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty  Ljubljana  1626914  64,100 
3.  0618  Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts  Ljubljana   5105498000  58,430 
Abstract
Most forests are managed for a sustainable supply of timber to support the needs of society, yet there is also an important societal need to retain parts of the forested landscape in a natural condition. These forest reserves perform a crucial role in society from both a scientific and cultural standpoint because they provide an understanding of how forest ecosystems function in the absence of human disturbance, particularly timber extraction. More specifically, forest reserves provide valuable baseline information on ecosystem structure and function, such as natural disturbance processes, forest dynamics, tree demographics, soil development, biogeochemical cycling, and species-site relationships. Moreover, because they are not influenced by wood harvesting, they are ideal places to examine the effects of environmental changes on forests, including climate change, biodiversity loss, and air pollution. For the same reasons, forest reserves serve a crucial role in forest management because they are ideal controls or reference conditions to both develop new silvicultural systems and to determine if management has been done in a sustainable way. In Slovenia, a network of forest reserves was established under the guidance of Prof. Dušan Mlinšek in the 1970s, which also included a strategy for monitoring and research. The network includes 173 reserves, totaling 9792 ha, which represent most of the forest diversity in Slovenia. While this was a monumental and important effort for the field of forest ecology and management in Slovenia, the network of forest reserves has been largely neglected since established and there are a number of problems associated with their management and monitoring. Some of the main problems are as follows: 1) One of the primary reasons for establishing the network was for scientific reasons, yet to date there has not been an assessment if the original scientific objectives of the forest reserve network have been met; 2) The reserve network lacks a systematic monitoring strategy that is based on up-to-date and clear scientific objectives; and 3) the network of permanent research plots established in many of the forest reserves in the 1980s has not been maintained. Based on this background, the objectives of the proposed project are as follows: 1) To perform a quantitative assessment of the current network of forest reserves, including an assessment of naturalness, size, representativeness, and scientific value of each reserve.  This assessment will be used to make recommendations regarding the official status of the current network (i.e to maintain or remove particular reserves) and their future potential for scientific reasons. The same assessment criteria will be applied to potentially new forest reserves in order to make recommendations on new additions to the reserve network. 2) To recommend a new strategy to manage and monitor the network of forest reserves based on the assessment carried out in the first objective 1. And 3), to maintain the network of existing permanent research plots in the forest reserve network.
Significance for science
Although this CRP project was focused on applied forest science, there were several important findings regarding our basic understanding of forest ecology. One of the project goals was to quantify deadwood characteristics in Slovenian forest reserves. These are unmanaged forest stands where natural mortality processes drive stand dynamics. The reserves varied in their degree of naturalness, ranging from stands that were removed from management about 30 years ago to old-growth stands that were never managed. Two interesting findings emerged from this work on dead wood that contradict well accepted ideas in the scientific literature. First, it is widely believed that natural forest dynamics in temperate regions are regulated by relatively continuous, low severity mortality of old-canopy trees, often referred to as “gap-dynamics”. Under this conceptual model, dead wood is input into forest ecosystems at a slow and steady pace, and the biodiversity that depends on deadwood for habitat evolved under such circumstances. Our findings, however, suggest that large amounts of deadwood are periodically added due to natural disturbances (e.g. damage from wind, snow, or ice). In other words, the amount of deadwood found in forest ecosystems is very dynamic in space and time, which has important implications for biodiversity dependent on deadwood. Second, forestry dogma often suggests that a long time is needed to restore certain features of old-growth in managed forests. Our findings suggest that forests removed from regular management 30 years ago have accumulated large amounts of deadwood. Although they typically have less deadwood volume than old-growth, they contain significantly more than managed forests in Slovenia. These results are encouraging for management practices aimed at restoring deadwood in forests that are managed for both ecological and economic functions. Perhaps the most important contribution of this project to basic science includes the maintenance of the permanent plot network within old-growth forest reserves in Slovenia. In total, 5614 trees over a total of 12.8 ha of plots in 11 forest reserves were re-tagged and measured, which included spatial location, diameter, mortality, and type of mortality. Many of the plots were re-measured for the first time since their establishment in the 1980s. Given that these plots occur in old-growth forests, conditions that are very rare in Europe, and cover about 30 years of spatially explicit data on tree growth and mortality, this is likely the only dataset of its kind in Europe and much of the world. As such, it can be used to answer a number of fundamental questions about the dynamics of temperate forests that will be of global interest.
Significance for the country
The results of this project have important implications for forest management and conservation of biodiversity within Slovenia. The findings clearly suggest that if a goal of forest management in Slovenia is to maintain biodiversity, then current practices are not sufficient due to the lack of deadwood in managed forests. The most recent forest inventory data suggest that Slovenian forests as a whole have about 14 m3/ha of deadwood, while forest reserves studied in this project had an average of 120 m3/ha. This equates to an 83% reduction in habitat for species dependent on deadwood. Simply based on a species-area relationship, this habitat reduction could lead to the regional disappearance of 20-40% of the deadwood dependent species from managed forests. To put this into perspective, a conservative estimate is that a third of all forest dwelling species in Europe, including insects, fungi, bryophytes, and lichens, require deadwood for habitat or food. There are two implications of these results. First, the forest reserves in Slovenia serve a critical role in conserving biodiversity because they likely act as refuges for deadwood dependent species. Second, the 0.8% of the forest area in Slovenia that is contained in reserves may not be sufficient to maintain viable populations of deadwood dependent species. Currently, forest reserves are the only places in Slovenia that are strictly unmanaged; other conservation programs (Natura 2000) and parks allow forest management. We therefor emphasize that forest reserves in Slovenia should be maintained or expanded, regardless of their ownership status. For privately owned reserves with high levels of naturalness, every effort should be made to maintain their protected status. We also suggest that the amount of deadwood in managed forest that is required by Slovene law be increased to at least 20 m3/ha, which would be a modest increase over the current amount.
Most important scientific results Annual report 2012, final report, complete report on dLib.si
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Annual report 2012, final report, complete report on dLib.si
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