Forschungs- & Entwicklungsinformationsdienst der Gemeinschaft - CORDIS

Present beech reference

The objective of the research was to improve the understanding of the characteristics, potential states and processes that operate in near-natural beech woodland reserves. This was achieved by assessing the patterns of tree regeneration, growth, mortality, stand development phases, coarse woody debris, browsing, and natural disturbance in present-day natural European beech forests - with the aim of establishing a reference point for nature-based management of beech forests.

This was achieved by completing the following research tasks:

- Literature review: Existing materials on natural dynamics in beech forests on the whole European range were collected, i.e. Britain, the Atlantic seaboard of NW Europe, the Baltic region, Central Europe, Eastern Central Europe, and Southern Europe.

- New studies based on permanent plot studies extended the knowledge base on natural dynamics by re-recording or establishing a number of permanent plot studies in various beech forest reserves in Europe (26 in total). The plots contained mapped records of individual trees, fallen logs and other features from which information could be gained on tree growth, regeneration, mortality, canopy gaps, dead wood and browsing.

- New mapping studies of developmental stages and canopy gaps using maps, aerial photographs and remote-sensed images facilitated new or further recording of forest development stages and canopy gaps in natural beech forests. The use of remote sensing images was a trial to see if this approach could work across the largest expanse of near-natural beech forest in Europe.

- New sampling of dead wood levels as this was an area in particular need of development.

The literature reviews were important in pulling together existing research on natural beech forest dynamics from across Europe, including information from a number of unpublished studies, less accessible articles, and a range of languages. By presenting the material in English the findings become accessible to a much larger audience.

The site-based studies generated important new information on natural stand dynamics and the factors driving this. This included new information on the impact of rare natural disturbances in the form of severe windstorms and ice-breakage events. Not only were the immediate impacts of these quantified, but studies were made of the relationships with the size and shape of trees and the topographical layout of the terrain. In several cases the long-term consequences were also studied based on permanent plots.

New information was gained on the growth, mortality and regeneration of trees, levels of dead wood in natural beech forests, and the pattern and long-term dynamics of developmental phases and canopy gaps. The latter included the first study of gap characteristics using satellite image analysis. Other new studies (in Britain) focused on the impact of large herbivores and grey squirrels on beech forests. Most importantly, the establishment and extension of several long-term permanent plot is particularly important in the study of stand dynamics in natural forests, especially because it allows short-term changes to be placed in a long-term context and validates hypotheses developed from other approaches.

In combination, the literature reviews and new site-based studies have substantially improved the understanding of the functioning, diversity and stability of forest ecosystems and they provide a scientifically robust means to develop criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management.

Verwandte Informationen

Reported by

Joint Nature Conservation Committee
Monkstone House, City Road
PE1 1JY Peterborough
United Kingdom
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