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Forests: Not just timber plantations

Forests: see the trees
and the wood
Silvano Fares and colleagues’
recommendations for
managing Europes forests to
promote resilience and carbon
storage (Nature 519, 407–409;
2015) seem to overlook the
implications for forests as natural
ecosystems and run counter
to biodiversity sustainability
guidelines (D. B.Lindenmayer
etal. Biol. Conserv. 131, 433–445;
2006). These must be taken
into account if we are to meet
the Convention on Biological
Diversity’s Aichi targets and the
European Unions 2020 target for
halting biodiversity loss.
For example, managing a
forest’s composition of tree
species in favour of productive,
gale-resistant and disease-
tolerant species or genotypes
will be at the expense of
hundreds of native woody
species and their rich biota of
insects and fungi. Harvesting
trees at shorter intervals to
promote carbon storage would
endanger old forests and veteran
trees, along with the birds, bats,
beetles, fungi and lichens they
support. And removing woody
debris to prevent wildfires
would kill the wealth of
species that thrive on dead and
decaying wood.
Hans Henrik Bruun, Jacob
Heilmann-Clausen University of
Copenhagen, Denmark.
Rasmus Ejrnæs Aarhus
University, Denmark.
Forests: not just
timber plantations
In considering how to develop
Europes forests sustainably
(S.Fares et al. Nature 519,
407–409; 2015), it is important to
differentiate between intensively
managed forestr y areas and
forests as natural habitats.
Working with, rather than
against, nature is more likely to
offer sustainable solutions (see,
for example, the forest work
Research network to
track alpine water
The water cycle in alpine
environments worldwide
supplies fresh water to vast
downstream areas inhabited by
more than half of humanity. The
International Network for Alpine
Research Catchment Hydrology
(INARCH) was launched this
year by the Global Energy and
Water Exchanges project of
the World Climate Research
Programme, to improve the
predictability of water resources
from mountainous regions (see
Melting snow and ice are
Interim initiative for
health in Iran
As physicians working in Iran, we
agree that the lifting of economic
sanctions cannot come soon
enough for the nations health
(M. Aloosh and A. Aloosh Nature
520, 623; 2015). In the interim, a
group dedicated to restoring Irans
medical science, public health and
health diplomacy is launching a
non-profit organization — the
Iranian–American Partnership
for Medical Science and Public
Health Association (IAPA).
The partnership is based in
Switzerland and comprises US
and Iranian volunteers (including
One of IAPAs first priorities
is to seek relief for young cancer
patients in charity hospitals
where chemotherapy drugs are
in desperately short supply (see
S.Shahabi Nature 520, 157; 2015).
A channel for such humanitarian
support was established in
November2013 by the Joint Plan
of Action between Iran and six
other countries, in part to address
the unwanted consequences
of international sanctions (see
Ali Akbar Velayati, Hamidreza
Jamaati, Seyed Mohammadreza
Hashemian Shahid Beheshti
University of Medical Sciences,
Tehran, Iran.
programme of the Convention
on Biological Diversity: www., especially in view
of the potential effects of climate
change on European forests.
One of the targets in
the European Union (EU)
biodiversity strategy for 2020
calls for forestry management
practices to improve the
conservation status of species
and habitats. Current forestry
practices all too often do just
the opposite (see, for instance,
D. B.Lindenmayer et al. Biol.
Conserv. 131, 433–445; 2006).
As the EU parliament debates
a common forest strategy, we
need to look beyond promoting
intensive forestry for maximum
timber yield under the flag of
climate change. Forestry practices
that preserve natural ecosystem
processes are likely to be more
effective in maintaining forests
biodiversity and natural resilience
against climate change (see, for
example, T.Kuuluvainen and
R.Grenfell Can. J. For. Res. 42,
1185–1203; 2012).
Bengt Gunnar Jonsson
MidSweden University, Sundsvall,
Guy Peer Helmholtz Centre for
Environmental Research — UFZ,
Leipzig, Germany.
Miroslav Svoboda Czech
University of Life Sciences, Prague,
Czech Republic.
altering hydrological systems and
affecting the quantity and quality
of water resources, as indicated in
the 2014 Working Group II report
by the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change. Insight into
these processes has been limited
by the difficulties of collecting
data on the alpine water cycle in
high-mountain research areas.
Studies have been concentrated
at few sites, with poor data
comparison across mountainous
INARCH’s alpine catchments
are well equipped to measure
snow and ice hydrology. Such
information can be used, for
example, to investigate the
effects of mountain snowpacks
and glaciers on water supply,
or to study variations in energy
and water exchange in different
high-altitude regions. The
network will help to develop
new observational methods, a
measurement infrastructure and
an international database to guide
research and policy.
John Pomeroy University of
Saskatchewan, Canada.
Matthias Bernhardt BOKU
University of Natural Resources
and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria.
Daniel Marks US Department of
Agriculture Agricultural Research
Service, Boise, Idaho, USA.
Botanists still need
to tell plants apart
I disagree with Isabel Marques
frightening suggestion that
botanical education should be
‘modernized’ by moving away
from the study of specimens
towards a more molecular
approach (Nature 520, 295;
2015). Classical botanical
disciplines such as systematics
and taxonomy fail to attract
students not because they lack
molecular allure, but because of
the time-consuming focus they
In any case, many botany
students at universities worldwide
are also trained in molecular
biology, as at my institute, the
University of Pretoria in South
Africa, and at the Ruhr University
Bochum in Germany, for
instance. Even ‘old-fashioned’
studies in the field of plant
systematics rarely get published
without molecular data, and these
often include genomic data.
Drawing botanical education
away from the plant itself risks
creating ‘experts’ who cannot
reliably differentiate species.
Marques’ call for outreach to help
the public to identify common
plants would then not stand a
Martin Kemler University of
Pretoria, South Africa.
32 | NATURE | VOL 521 | 7 MAY 2015
© 2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved
... As noted in subsequent responses to Fares et al. (Bruun et al. 2015;Jonsson et al. 2015), these recommendations represent a worldview in which the value of forests is primarily believed to reside in their economic value as a source of marketable goods and services, notably timber. This overlooks the high biodiversity value of many natural forest ecosystems (Lindenmayer 2009). ...
... Introduction of genetic material from more southern populations represents a form of genetic pollution, which could reduce the evolutionary fitness of locally adapted native tree populations (Koskela et al. 2014). Management interventions to promote carbon storage, such as thinning or shorter rotations, would endanger old-growth forests and veteran trees, and could destroy the habitat characteristics that underlie their exceptional importance for biodiversity conservation (Bruun et al. 2015;Jonsson et al. 2015). Such recommendations highlight the fact that forestry practices can represent a major threat to forest biodiversity (Lindenmayer et al. 2006;Lindenmayer 2009). ...
... Such recommendations highlight the fact that forestry practices can represent a major threat to forest biodiversity (Lindenmayer et al. 2006;Lindenmayer 2009). Those management practices that preserve natural ecosystem processes are likely to be more effective in supporting forest biodiversity and resilience (Kuuluvainen & Grenfell 2012;Jonsson et al. Broadleaved woodland should be managed to maximize the crops' value by balancing quality and timber yield Planting material should be sourced from improved stands, where available or appropriate. It will be important to intervene frequently to promote adaptation through planting or to encourage natural regeneration and evolutionary adaptation. ...
Resilience is increasingly being incorporated into environmental policy at national and global scales. Yet resilience is a contested concept, with a wide variety of definitions proposed in the scientific literature, and little consensus regarding how it should be measured. Consequently, adoption of resilience as a policy goal presents risks to biodiversity conservation, which are considered here in relation to three categories: (i) ambiguity, (ii) measurement difficulty and (iii) misuse. While policy makers might welcome the ambiguity of resilience as a concept, as it provides flexibility and opportunities to build consensus, the lack of clear definitions hinders evaluation of policy effectiveness. Policy relating to resilience is unlikely to be evidence-based, as monitoring will be difficult to implement. Vague definitions also provide scope for misuse. This is illustrated by the case of European forests, where resilience is being used as a justification to promote management interventions that will negatively affect biodiversity. To address these risks, there is a need for standard definitions and measures of resilience to be developed for use in policy. Further, there is a need for guidelines, standards and identification of best practice in relation to resilience policy, to ensure that its implementation does not contribute to biodiversity loss. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
... This is a dilemma, as the production of soya beans has led to massive deforestation in the Amazon, which damages approximately 20% of the Amazon's forest cover, which again affects the rainfall (Arruda et al., 2019). Green poverty is a new social phenomenon where products from forestry and farming are sold with low profit (Fig. 4) (Jonsson et al., 2015;Wade, 1973). In China for example, each person of the community in forestry areas is generally allocated with 1 km 2 of forest land, and based on an estimated labour income of 5 USD per day (The-World-Bank, 2015), the income generated from forestation is equivalent to only 415-754 USD/km 2 /year excluding the labour costs (Table S1) (Peltzer et al., 2015). ...
The deforestation and burning of the Amazon and other rainforests is having a cascade of effects on global climate, biodiversity, human health and local and regional socioeconomics. This challenging situation demands a sustainable exploitation of the region's resources in accordance with the United Nations (UNs) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to meet Good Environmental Status and reduce poverty. The management of forests sustainability spans across at least eight of the 17 UN SDGs mainly to combat desertification, halt biodiversity loss, and reverse land degradation. Significant changes are needed if we are to sustain the world's rainforests and thereby the global climate and biodiversity. These measures and mitigations are of global responsibility requiring both developed and developing nations such as the United States, EU, and China to change their policies and stand regarding their high demand for meat and hardwood. When possible, non-profit tree-planting internet browsers should be implemented by governments and institutions. So far, there is a lack of active use of the UN SDGs and the countries must therefore need to fully adopt the UN SDGs in order to help the situation. One way to enforce this could be through imposing economic penalties to governments and national institutions that do not adhere to for example publishing open access of data and other important information relevant for the mission of the UN SDGs.
... Likewise, this influences the gathering and transfer of knowledge related to optimal forest use for climate change mitigation, which then become an obstacle in the cognitive component. This problem is illustrated by the scientific debate about whether it is better to conserve or harvest trees [see for example Fares et al. (2015) and responses by Jonsson et al. (2015), Bellassen and Luyssaert (2014) and Jacob et al. (2014)], where both sides use the argument for favoring carbon sequestration to support their divergent views (Ulmanen et al., 2015). Current objectives for nature conservation align well with the goal of storing carbon as biomass in the forest, while harvest and substitution with a focus on high production aligns well with current goals for forest production (Winkel et al., 2011). ...
Full-text available
Managed forests can play an important role in climate change mitigation due to their capacity to sequester carbon. However, it has proven difficult to harness their full potential for climate change mitigation. Managed forests are often referred to as socio-ecological systems as the human dimension is an integral part of the system. When attempting to change systems that are influenced by factors such as collective knowledge, social organization , understanding of the situation and values represented in society, initial intentions often shift due to the complexity of political, social and scientific interactions. Currently, the scientific literature is dispersed over the different factors related to the socio-ecological system. To examine the level of dispersion and to obtain a holistic view, we review climate change mitigation in the context of Swedish forest research. We introduce a heuristic framework to understand decision-making connected to climate change mitigation. We apply our framework to two themes which span different dimensions in the socio-ecological system: carbon accounting and bioenergy. A key finding in the literature was the perception that current uncertainties regarding the reliability of different methods of carbon accounting inhibits international agreement on the use of forests for climate change miti-gation. This feeds into a strategic obstacle affecting the willingness of individual countries to implement forest-related carbon emission reduction policies. Decisions on the utilization of forests for bioenergy are impeded by a lack of knowledge regarding the resultant biophysical and social consequences. This interacts negatively with the development of institutional incentives regarding the production of bioenergy using forest products. Normative disagreement about acceptable forest use further affects these scientific discussions and therefore is an over-arching influence on decision-making. With our framework, we capture this complexity and make obstacles to decision-making more transparent to enable their more effective resolution. We have identified the main research areas concerned with the use of managed forest in climate change mitigation and the obstacles that are connected to decision making.
... For example, tree species diversification could endanger the exceptional biodiversity value of ancient native woodlands (Bruun, Heilmann-Clausen, & Ejrnaes, 2015). Management practices that preserve natural ecosystem processes are likely to be more effective in supporting forest biodiversity and resilience (Jonsson, Pe'er, & Svoboda, 2015). ...
Full-text available
Resilience is increasingly being considered as a new paradigm of forest management among scientists, practitioners, and policymakers. However, metrics of resilience to environmental change are lacking. Faced with novel disturbances, forests may be able to sustain existing ecosystem services and biodiversity by exhibiting resilience, or alternatively these attributes may undergo either a linear or nonlinear decline. Here we provide a novel quantitative approach for assessing forest resilience that focuses on three components of resilience, namely resistance, recovery, and net change, using a spatially explicit model of forest dynamics. Under the pulse set scenarios, we explored the resilience of nine ecosystem services and four biodiversity measures following a one-off disturbance applied to an increasing percentage of forest area. Under the pulse + press set scenarios, the six disturbance intensities explored during the pulse set were followed by a continuous disturbance. We detected thresholds in net change under pulse + press scenarios for the majority of the ecosystem services and biodiversity measures, which started to decline sharply when disturbance affected >40% of the landscape. Thresholds in net change were not observed under the pulse scenarios, with the exception of timber volume and ground flora species richness. Thresholds were most pronounced for aboveground biomass, timber volume with respect to the ecosystem services, and ectomycorrhizal fungi and ground flora species richness with respect to the biodiversity measures. Synthesis and applications. The approach presented here illustrates how the multidimensionality of stability research in ecology can be addressed and how forest resilience can be estimated in practice. Managers should adopt specific management actions to support each of the three components of resilience separately, as these may respond differently to disturbance. In addition, management interventions aiming to deliver resilience should incorporate an assessment of both pulse and press disturbances to ensure detection of threshold responses to disturbance, so that appropriate management interventions can be identified.
... Even though the main focus in managing European temperate forests is on maximizing timber production (Jonsson, Pe'er, & Svoboda, 2015), achieving a high biodiversity can promote a wide range of ecosystem services (Mace, Norris, & Fitter, 2011) and is desirable (Brockerhoff, Jactel, Parrotta, Quine, & Sayer, 2008). A possible way to improve forest management practices consequently aligns with achieving a better understanding of biotic interactions in the forest (Araújo & Luoto, 2007). ...
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In late-successional environments, low in available nutrient such as the forest understory, herbaceous plant individuals depend strongly on their mycorrhizal associates for survival. We tested whether in temperate European forests arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) woody plants might facilitate the establishment of AM herbaceous plants in agreement with the mycorrhizal mediation hypothesis. We used a dataset spanning over 400 vegetation plots in the Weser-Elbe region (northwest Germany). Mycorrhizal status information was obtained from published resources, and Ellenberg indicator values were used to infer environmental data. We carried out tests for both relative richness and relative abundance of herbaceous plants. We found that the subset of herbaceous individuals that associated with AM profited when there was a high cover of AM woody plants. These relationships were retained when we accounted for environmental filtering effects using path analysis. Our findings build on the existing literature highlighting the prominent role of mycorrhiza as a coexistence mechanism in plant communities. From a nature conservation point of view, it may be possible to promote functional diversity in the forest understory through introducing AM woody trees in stands when absent.
Forest ecosystems are known for their capacity to retain and redistribute water. Nevertheless, even in some forested watersheds, prolonged or intense rainfall events often exceed the retention threshold of the system, generating accelerated runoff. Surface microrelief is an important attribute of forest ecosystems that often act to mediate potential runoff. In most natural forests, the soil surface is typically unevenly broken with pit and mound microrelief, formed by both historical and recent tree uprooting events. In managed forests, however, tree uprooting is traditionally seen as undesirable. The systematic repression of this process may lead to gradual loss of microrelief. To date, little attention has been paid to the impacts of the pit-mound microrelief, or its absence, on forest hydrology. Restoration of naturally undulating microrelief in managed forests can help to accentuate water retention and mitigate runoff, while reducing drought stress and reinforcing forest productivity and resilience.
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Support resilience and promote carbon storage, say Silvano Fares and colleagues.
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Natural disturbance emulation (NDE) has been proposed as a general approach to ecologically sustainable forest management. We reviewed the concepts, theories, and strategies related to NDE in boreal forest management. We also reviewed publications that discussed NDE in the boreal forest in general and those that specifically compared NDE-based management with conventional even-aged management. The papers generally focused on northern North America and landscape-scale wildfire as the main disturbance factor, whereas information from Eurasia was exclusively theoretical. Within this limited scope, NDE was generally found to have a positive effect on biodiversity in terms of forest structure and species diversity when compared with conventional even-aged management. Studies on timber supply and social implications of NDE were so few that they preclude generalizations. We conclude that the ecological and economic performance of NDE as a management approach still remains poorly examined. To advance the development of NDE, particular attention should be given to (1) augmenting the knowledge base on natural range of variability of unmanaged forest ecosystems and evaluating the validity of this information in a changing climate, (2) fostering multidisciplinary research with better integration of ecological theory to both integrative and analytical research on NDE, and (3) better integration of socioeconomic concerns, adaptive management schemes, and international collaboration into NDE initiatives.
Many indicators and criteria have been proposed to assess the sustainable management of forests but their scientific validity remains uncertain. Because the effects of forest disturbances (such as logging) are often specific to particular species, sites, landscapes, regions and forest types, management “shortcuts” such as indicator species, focal species and threshold levels of vegetation cover may be of limited generic value. We propose an alternative approach based on a set of five guiding principles for biodiversity conservation that are broadly applicable to any forested area: (1) the maintenance of connectivity; (2) the maintenance of landscape heterogeneity; (3) the maintenance of stand structural complexity; and (4) the maintenance of aquatic ecosystem integrity; (5) the use of natural disturbance regimes to guide human disturbance regimes.