Article

Primary forest distribution and representation in a Central European landscape: Results of a large-scale field-based census

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Abstract

Given the global intensification of forest management and climate change, protecting and studying forests that develop free of direct human intervention-also known as primary forests-are becoming increasingly important. Yet, most countries still lack data regarding primary forest distribution. Previous studies have tested remote sensing approaches as a promising tool for identifying primary forests. However, their precision is highly dependent on data quality and resolution, which vary considerably. This has led to underestimation of primary forest abundance and distribution in some regions, such as the temperate zone of Europe. Field-based inventories of primary forests and methodologies to conduct these assessments are inconsistent; incomplete or inaccurate mapping increases the vulnerability of primary forest systems to continued loss from clearing and land-use change. We developed a comprehensive methodological approach for identifying primary forests, and tested it within one of Europe's hotspots of primary forest abundance: the Carpathian Mountains. From 2009 to 2015, we conducted the first national-scale primary forest census covering the entire 49,036 km 2 area of the Slovak Republic. We analyzed primary forest distribution patterns and the representativeness of potential vegetation types within primary forest remnants. We further evaluated the conservation status and extent of primary forest loss. Remaining primary forests are small, fragmented, and often do not represent the potential natural vegetation. We identified 261 primary forest localities. However, they represent only 0.47% of the total forested area, which is 0.21% of the country's land area. The spatial pattern of primary forests was clustered. Primary forests have tended to escape anthropogenic disturbance on sites with higher elevations, steeper slopes, rugged terrain, and greater distances from roads and settlements. Primary forest stands of montane mixed and subalpine spruce forests are more abundant compared to broadleaved forests. Notably, several habitat types are completely missing within primary forests (e.g., floodplain forests). More than 30% of the remaining primary forests are not strictly protected, and harvesting occurred at 32 primary forest localities within the study period. Almost all logging of primary forests was conducted inside of protected areas, underscoring the critical status of primary forest distribution in this part of Europe. Effective conservation strategies are urgently needed to stop the rapid loss and fragmentation of the remaining primary forests. Our approach based on precise, field-based surveys is widely applicable and transferrable to other fragmented forest landscapes.

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... Only recently the EU commission released a new "Biodiversity Strategy for 2030," which emphasizes the need to define, map, monitor and strictly protect all of the EU's remaining primary and old-growth forests (European Commission, 2020). Until this strategy comes into force, however, many primary forests remain unprotected (Mikoláš et al., 2019;Sabatini et al., 2018), and it is unclear in which forest types such protection gaps are largest. ...
... Many protected areas allow for human activities (e.g. salvage logging) that could jeopardize natural forest dynamics, such as successional recovery from natural disturbance and carryover of biological legacies (Mikoláš et al., 2019;Thorn et al., 2018). Such activities should thus be banned from primary forests, if the goal is to allow these forests to develop naturally. ...
... setting aside forest and discontinuing forest management, salvage logging or disturbance suppression) or actively (e.g. removing non-native species, translocating species, restoring natural hydrological conditions or promoting the development of key structural elements, such as deadwood or veteran trees; Keenelyside et al., 2012;Mazziotta et al., 2016;Mikoláš et al., 2019;Schnitzler, 2014). Still, restoring conditions closer to those found in primary forests faces many challenges, not the least of which is the long timeframes involved. ...
Article
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Primary forests are critical for forest biodiversity and provide key ecosystem services. In Europe, these forests are particularly scarce and it is unclear whether they are sufficiently protected. Here we aim to: (a) understand whether extant primary forests are representative of the range of naturally occurring forest types, (b) identify forest types which host enough primary forest under strict protection to meet conservation targets and (c) highlight areas where restoration is needed and feasible. We combined a unique geodatabase of primary forests with maps of forest cover, potential natural vegetation, biogeographic regions and protected areas to quantify the proportion of extant primary forest across Europe's forest types and to identify gaps in protection. Using spatial predictions of primary forest locations to account for underreporting of primary forests, we then highlighted areas where restoration could complement protection. We found a substantial bias in primary forest distribution across forest types. Of the 54 forest types we assessed, six had no primary forest at all, and in two‐thirds of forest types, less than 1% of forest was primary. Even if generally protected, only ten forest types had more than half of their primary forests strictly protected. Protecting all documented primary forests requires expanding the protected area networks by 1,132 km2 (19,194 km2 when including also predicted primary forests). Encouragingly, large areas of non‐primary forest existed inside protected areas for most types, thus presenting restoration opportunities. Europe's primary forests are in a perilous state, as also acknowledged by EU's “Biodiversity Strategy for 2030.” Yet, there are considerable opportunities for ensuring better protection and restoring primary forest structure, composition and functioning, at least partially. We advocate integrated policy reforms that explicitly account for the irreplaceable nature of primary forests and ramp up protection and restoration efforts alike.
... 13 Accessed on: 12-11-2020 14 https://www.iucn.org/theme/protected-areas/about/protected-area-categories wood removal in recent years in Europe Senf et al. 2018), even inside protected areas (Mikoláš et al. 2019). This suggests that the role of strictly protected areas should be monitored and enforced to be fully effective. ...
... The size of an individual stand in beech forests is often between 20 and 25 ha. There is a large variability, though, as it can be as small as 5-10 ha (Mikoláš et al. 2019;Peck et al. 2015) or may reach an extent of 50 ha (Vandekerkhove 2017). While these small sizes might be sufficient to allow the occurrence of small-scale gap dynamics and disturbances in beech forests, recent evidence suggests that fine-scale disturbance is not the only agent in these forests. ...
... A practical application of the minimum dynamic area concept is reported in Mikoláš et al. (2019), where they compare two alternative approaches to primary forest conservation in Slovakia (Figure 4). In the first case, a large reserve was established in the Ticha and Koprova valleys, where fragmented primary forests (363 ha) were connected into a 9,188 ha forest complex which was left for natural development. ...
... In these circumstances, stopping the loss of more primary forests requires important changes in conservation politics (e.g. Mikoláš et al. 2019). In the Carpathian Mountains from Eastern Europe, primary forests are still well represented compared to the general situation on the continent (e.g. ...
... Sabatini et al. 2018). Nevertheless, primary forests are not in a good situation in some countries from this region (Mikoláš et al. 2019). Unlike other areas of Europe, Romanian Carpathians even nowadays shelter numerous primary old growth forests (e.g. ...
Article
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Forest plantations usually have a poorer fauna than native forests of the same region. Exceptions seem to appear in colder areas of Europe with few native forests. The Jiu Gorge National Park (JGNP) is situated in the Southern Romanian Carpathians, where numerous native, especially beech, forests are present. However, in the southern part of JGNP there are plantations with non-native species, like pine or black locust, where previous studies had reported a poor fauna. Based on this information, we supposed that this fauna poverty in plantations will be obvious also in the case of the litter macrofauna. This was verified by analyzing the litter macrofauna from 15 forests in the JGNP (10 natural forests and five forest plantations). We collected 12,950 individuals belonging to 28 invertebrate groups. The highest number of taxa was registered in the sessile oak forest, while the highest individual number and taxa diversity was observed in two beech forests. In the beech and birch reforestation areas the fauna was poorer than in old mature forests of the same tree species. In contrast to native forests, the fauna in plantations was much poorer, especially in the pine plantations. Detritiphagous taxa were the most affected by factors of the plantations. In the plantations, more mobile groups with various trophic regimes prevail. The plantations that are present in the southern areas of JGNP, replaced the original sessile oak forests, compared to which they have a much poorer fauna. Forest plantations from JGNP have low value for biodiversity, compared to the northern European areas where natural forests became very rare and the fauna is recent. JGNP is not in the same situation, having extended native forests, which are present in the area since the glacial periods. Therefore, these forests shelter the native fauna of the region. There are few plantations, present only in the disturbed part of JGNP, but even there they have only a very low importance for biodiversity. The data from JGNP confirms the fact that zones with high biodiversity and native forests should be conserved. Key words: Carpathians, beech, forest plantations, past, native, invertebrates, leaf litter, forestry.
... We assessed the historical disturbance of 20 beech-dominated primary mixed forests stands within the Carpathian Mountains of Slovakia and Romania. The presence of primary forests was determined through forest inventories in Slovakia (Kozák et al., 2018;Mikoláš et al., 2019;Sabatini et al., 2018; also see http:// remoteforests.org) and Romania (Kozák et al., 2018;Sabatini et al., 2018) and detailed descriptions of these primary forest inventories can be found in the study by Mikoláš et al., (2019). Primary forest stands occurred in four geographic clusters which we refer to as landscapes (West Slovakia, East Slovakia, North Romania, and South Romania) covering 42°-50° latitude and 14°-25° longitude, with plots ranging in elevation from 615 to 1,324 m a.s.l ( Figure 2a). ...
... We assessed the historical disturbance of 20 beech-dominated primary mixed forests stands within the Carpathian Mountains of Slovakia and Romania. The presence of primary forests was determined through forest inventories in Slovakia (Kozák et al., 2018;Mikoláš et al., 2019;Sabatini et al., 2018; also see http:// remoteforests.org) and Romania (Kozák et al., 2018;Sabatini et al., 2018) and detailed descriptions of these primary forest inventories can be found in the study by Mikoláš et al., (2019). Primary forest stands occurred in four geographic clusters which we refer to as landscapes (West Slovakia, East Slovakia, North Romania, and South Romania) covering 42°-50° latitude and 14°-25° longitude, with plots ranging in elevation from 615 to 1,324 m a.s.l ( Figure 2a). ...
Article
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Wind is the leading disturbance agent in European forests, and the magnitude of wind impacts on forest mortality has increased over recent decades. However, the atmospheric triggers behind severe winds in Western Europe (large‐scale cyclones) differ from those in Southeastern Europe (small‐scale convective instability). This geographic difference in wind drivers alters the spatial scale of resulting disturbances and potentially the sensitivity to climate change. Over the 20th century, the severity and prevalence of cyclone‐induced windstorms have increased while the prevalence of atmospheric instability has decreased and thus, the trajectory of Europe‐wide windthrow remains uncertain. To better predict forest sensitivity and trends of windthrow disturbance we used dendrochronological methods to reconstruct 140 years of disturbance history in beech‐dominated primary forests of Central and Eastern Europe. We compared generalized linear mixed models of these disturbance time series to determine whether large‐scale cyclones or small‐scale convective storms were more responsible for disturbance severity while also accounting for topography and stand character variables likely to influence windthrow susceptibility. More exposed forests, forests with a longer absence of disturbance, and forests lacking recent high severity disturbance showed increased sensitivity to both wind drivers. Large‐scale cyclone‐induced windstorms were the main driver of disturbance severity at both the plot and stand scale (0.1–∼100 ha) whereas convective instability effects were more localized (0.1 ha). Though the prevalence and severity of cyclone‐induced windstorms have increased over the 20 century, primary beech forests did not display an increase in the severity of windthrow observed over the same period.
... This study was conducted in primary temperate mountain forests of the Carpathian Mountains and the Balkan peninsula, spanning from beech-dominated and mixed forests (hereafter referred to as beech-dominated) at lower elevations to spruce-dominated forests at higher elevations. These two regions contain the largest remnants of primary forests in the temperate zone of Europe (Janda et al., 2019;Mikoláš et al., 2019;Nagel et al., 2014;Sabatini et al., 2018). ...
... Primary forests were characterized as unmanaged forests with natural stand composition, diverse horizontal, vertical, and age structure, and a significant amount and diversity of downed and standing dead trees in different stages of decomposition; most stands were typically in an old-growth stage of development, but early seral stages developing after more severe natural disturbances were also present in these primary-forest sites (Mikoláš et al., 2019). The data set used for this study is a part of the REMOTE network (for more details see www.remot efore sts.org), which is focused on surveying remaining tracts of primary-forest landscapes in Europe and long-term study of their dynamics. ...
Article
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Aims We examined differences in lifespan among the dominant tree species (spruce (Picea abies (L.) H. Karst.), fir (Abies alba Mill.), beech (Fagus sylvatica L.), and maple (Acer pseudoplatanus L.)) across primary mountain forests of Europe. We ask how disturbance history, lifetime growth patterns, and environmental factors influence lifespan. Locations Balkan mountains, Carpathian mountains, Dinaric mountains. Methods Annual ring widths from 20,600 cores from primary forests were used to estimate tree life spans, growth trends, and disturbance history metrics. Mixed models were used to examine species-specific differences in lifespan (i.e. defined as species-specific 90th percentiles of age distributions), and how metrics of radial growth, disturbance parameters, and selected environmental factors influence lifespan. Results While only a few beech trees surpassed 500 years, individuals of all four species were older than 400 years. There were significant differences in lifespan among the four species (beech > fir > spruce > maple), indicating life history differentiation in lifespan. Trees were less likely to reach old age in areas affected by more severe disturbance events, whereas individuals that experienced periods of slow growth and multiple episodes of suppression and release were more likely to reach old age. Aside from a weak but significant negative effect of vegetation season temperature on fir and maple lifespan, no other environmental factors included in the analysis influenced lifespan. Conclusions Our results indicate species-specific biological differences in lifespan, which may play a role in facilitating tree species coexistence in mixed temperate forests. Finally, natural disturbances regimes were a key driver of lifespan, which could have implications for forest dynamics if regimes shift under global change.
... This was done after discussing with data contributors the criteria and categories used for constructing their datasets, which we then mapped onto our definition framework. Depending on the datasets, these criteria included: (1) forest age or structural variables 19,23,36 , (2) legal designation 25 or year since onset of protection 37 , (3) time since last anthropogenic disturbancee 38 , or (4) the lack of human impacts and infrastructures 39 . ...
... Since our data were collected continuously over the last two decades, we cannot exclude that some forest patches may have undergone human disturbance after data collection. This is particularly relevant for areas where primary forests are lost at high rates, such as the Carpathians, Russian Karelia, or Northern Fennoscandia [18][19][20] . To assess to what extent this might be an issue, we used the open-access Landsat archive and the LandTrendr disturbance detection algorithm 50,51 , using Google Earth Engine 52 (Fig. 5). ...
Article
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Primary forests, defined here as forests where the signs of human impacts, if any, are strongly blurred due to decades without forest management, are scarce in Europe and continue to disappear. Despite these losses, we know little about where these forests occur. Here, we present a comprehensive geodatabase and map of Europe’s known primary forests. Our geodatabase harmonizes 48 different, mostly field-based datasets of primary forests, and contains 18,411 individual patches (41.1 Mha) spread across 33 countries. When available, we provide information on each patch (name, location, naturalness, extent and dominant tree species) and the surrounding landscape (biogeographical regions, protection status, potential natural vegetation, current forest extent). Using Landsat satellite-image time series (1985–2018) we checked each patch for possible disturbance events since primary forests were identified, resulting in 94% of patches free of significant disturbances in the last 30 years. Although knowledge gaps remain, ours is the most comprehensive dataset on primary forests in Europe, and will be useful for ecological studies, and conservation planning to safeguard these unique forests.
... Many threatened wood-inhabiting fungi are dispersal-limited and depend on landscape-level connectivity to retain viable populations (Abrego et al. 2016). In Slovakia, oldgrowth forests and their remnants cover 0.47% of the total forested area, which is 0.21% of the country's land area (Jasík et al. 2017, Mikoláš et al. 2019. They are distributed unequally across the country, especially caused by landscape morphology and fragmented and threatened by human activity (Mikoláš et al. 2019). ...
... In Slovakia, oldgrowth forests and their remnants cover 0.47% of the total forested area, which is 0.21% of the country's land area (Jasík et al. 2017, Mikoláš et al. 2019. They are distributed unequally across the country, especially caused by landscape morphology and fragmented and threatened by human activity (Mikoláš et al. 2019). ...
... Only a small number of national-scale inventories have been completed and published (Sabatini et. al., 2018;Mikoláš et al., 2019b;Sabatini et al., 2020b, pre-print not certified by peer review). The Czech Republic is one example where a nationalscale forest naturalness assessment found 490 old-growth forests, together totaling an area of 30,000 ha (Adam and Vrska, 2009;Kraus and Krumm, 2013). ...
... For the purpose of mapping primary and old-growth forests, it may not be necessary to determine the exact age of the oldest trees. Experience from primary forest inventories shows that veteran trees -the largest living and/or dead trees on the site which already show signs of slow dying -can be relatively easily identified (Mikoláš et al., 2019b). ...
Book
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Primary and old-growth forests in the EU are extremely rare and threatened, yet play an irreplaceable role in biodiversity conservation and the provision of other ecosystem services such as carbon storage. Recognising this, the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 sets the target to strictly protect all remaining primary and old-growth forests. This target is part of a wider goal to protect 30% of EU land and to dedicate 10% of EU land for strict protection. Strict protection of the remaining EU primary and old-growth forests is a first and crucial step to ensure their long-term conservation. Despite the importance of this target, its implementation is currently prevented by several unanswered questions that require discussion among science and policy experts. This includes, for example, the question of how old-growth forest should be defined and where remaining primary and old-growth forests are located. In addition, there are ongoing discussions of how to best support strict protection of primary and old-growth forests and how to maintain and restore biodiversity, for example by preserving and allowing old-growth attributes to develop in forests that are managed for purposes other than conservation. This study specifically focuses on old-growth forests, given the increasing debate around this type of forest in Europe and their importance for forest biodiversity, but also includes information that is relevant for primary forests in a wider sense. The objective of this study is to inform discussions surrounding the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 target to strictly protect primary and old-growth forests. The methods of this study included a review of scientific literature on (i) Defining old-growth forests, (ii) Evidence of old and old-growth forests in Europe; (iii) Approaches to protect old-growth forests and to maintain and develop old-growth attributes, (iv) Associated benefits, consequences, and potential trade-offs of old-growth forest protection and management and development of old-growth forest attributes; and (v) Policy implications.
... In conclusion, these primary forests store large amounts of biomass C. Much more than comparable managed forests (Pregitzer and Euskirchen, 2004). Also, these forests are increasingly under the pressure of being harvested and turned into managed forest (Knorn et al., 2013;Mikoláš et al., 2019;Sabatini et al., 2018). Harvesting these forests would result in immediate loss of C, and due to relatively short rotation periods that commonly are used in forestry, the forests would not reach their maximum C storing capacity. ...
Article
Accurate estimations of changes in the forest carbon (C) pools over time are essential for predicting the future forest C balance and its part in the global C cycle. While the overall understanding of global forest C dynamics has improved, some significant forest ecosystem processes have been largely overlooked, resulting in possible biases. As an example, the effects of low and moderate severity disturbances have received disproportionately little attention. In this study, we use an extensive database of 9610 tree increment cores from 400 plots in primary uneven-aged Norway spruce (Picea abies) forests in the Carpathian Mountains, to explore the dynamics of live and dead wood C after disturbance. The data represents a chronosequence of more than 250 years since disturbance, varying highly in severity. We found that disturbance severity had a substantial impact on the post-disturbance long-term accumulation of C. Initially, live tree C accumulated at a similar rate independent of disturbance severity. However, the increase in C leveled off earlier after low disturbance severity while the most heavily disturbed forests continued to accumulate C to the latest stages of stand development. These results stress the importance of taking disturbance severity into account when predicting the long-term dynamics of C storage in forests under climate change. The results also highlight the importance of these forests as significant C pools. If harvested and turned into managed forest they would not reach their maximum C storing capacity.
... The disintegration stage is the early successional stage of the newly forming beech stand. In this study, areas of early disturbance were confirmed to be sites of high beetle richness 4,39,80 . However, this phase lasts for a relatively short time, typically up to 20 years 47 , after which species richness declines rapidly, according to our observations. ...
Article
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Natural dynamics in forests play an important role in the lives of many species. In the landscape of managed forests, natural disturbances are reduced by management activities. This usually has a significant effect on insect diversity. The effect of small-scale natural dynamics of protected beech stands on the richness of saproxylic and non-saproxylic beetles was investigated. Sampling was carried out by using flight interception traps in the framework of comparing different developmental stages: optimum, disintegration, and growing up, each utilizing 10 samples. We recorded 290 species in total, of which 61% were saproxylic. The results showed that the highest species richness and thus abundance was in the disintegration stage. In each developmental stage, species variation was explained differently depending on the variable. Deadwood, microhabitats, and canopy openness were the main attributes in the later stages of development for saproxylic beetles. For non-saproxylics, variability was mostly explained by plant cover and canopy openness. Small-scale disturbances, undiminished by management activities, are an important element for biodiversity. They create more structurally diverse stands with a high supply of feeding and living habitats. In forestry practice, these conclusions can be imitated to the creation of small-scale silvicultural systems with active creation or retention of high stumps or lying logs.
... This applies especially for forests under pressure from international timber markets. Primary forests or intact secondary forests are particularly sensitive because despite the fact that they are very important carbon reservoirs and biodiversity assets, their status of protection in some EU MS is low (Mikoláš et al. 2019). ...
... tree canopy cover >60%) as major changes in canopy foliage cover are readily detected with greenness indices. Over the last decade a number of studies have used this approach to map forest cover at a range of scales from country level to global, including attempts to distinguish between all forests, natural forests and forests that are equivalent to primary forest, including IFL and Hinterland forest (Turubanova et al., 2018, Zhuravleva et al., 2013, Tyukavina et al., 2016, Mikoláš et al., 2019, Hansen et al., 2019, Margono et al., 2014, Potapov et al., 2008. IFL mapping is undertaken globally and by definition those areas include primary forest but also naturally occurring non-forested ecosystems. ...
Technical Report
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This report has been prepared by independent experts as a discussion paper for the workshop series with the following three objectives:1.Review and assess definitions relating to primary forests;2.Collate and evaluate datasets and methods currently available for measuring the extent of primary forests; and 3.Provide options for defining, assessing and reporting on primary forests.
... Regretabil este faptul că există în momentul de față o rezistență inexplicabilă a oficialităților române din domeniu în a permite efectuarea studiilor în contextul existenței unei birocrații disproporționate. Multe din rezultatele acumulate din 2010 până azi au fost deja publicate în reviste științifice de prestigiu (Cailleret et al. 2018, Vítková Și Al. 2018, Mikoláš et al. 2019, Lábusová et al. 2019 Convenția acoperă întreaga arie geografică a Carpaților și, alături de Convenția Alpilor este al doilea tratat sub-regional pentru protecția și dezvoltarea durabilă regiunilor montane. Obiectivele Convenției Carpaților sunt multiple și toate sunt obligatorii pentru atin-gerea scopului dezvoltării durabile și protecția resurselor naturale precum și a habitatelor. ...
Article
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DOI: 10.4316/bf.2021.009 Raportul „Pădurile virgine în inima Europei” (2021), autori; Rainer Luick, Albert Reif, Erika Schneider, Manfred Grossmann și Ecaterina Fodor este o analiză detaliată a importanței, situației actuale și viitorului pădurilor seculare din România. Autorii subliniază marea lor simpatie față de România și abordează importanța ultimelor păduri seculare din Carpații românești pentru moștenirea naturală a Europei. De asemenea, sunt descrise detaliat neputința și lipsa de interes din partea instituțiilor statului în protejarea pădurilor seculare și virgine. Investigațiile asupra corupției profunde și imixtiunii criminale în sectoarele silviculturii și exploatării lemnului scot la iveală interferențe șocante între politică, administrație și corporații. Existând informații asupra tăierilor la scară mare în arii protejate, studiul este centrat pe întrebarea de ce instituțiile UE au avut reacții puține în decursul multor ani la aceste probleme. Autorii cer ca protecția ultimelor păduri virgine din centrul Europei să devină o preocupare a organismelor pan-europene. Acest demers este formulat ca un element cheie pentru Strategia pentru Biodiversitate a Europei până în 2030. România ar deveni astfel un test de litmus asupra șanselor de reușită ale strategiei.
... The growth ring series database, includes more than twenty thousand tree core samples, demonstrates that these disturbances form a natural part of the forest development cycle. Results of scientific works are already extensively published (inter alia Cailleret et al. 2018, Vítková et al. 2018, Mikoláš et al. 2019, Lábusová et al. 2019. ...
Book
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The report "Virgin forests at the heart of Europe“ by Rainer Luick, Albert Reif, Erika Schneider, Manfred Grossmann & Ecaterina Fodor (2021) is a comprehensive analysis of the importance, situation and future of virgin and old-growth forests in Romania. The authors emphasize their great sympathy with the country and address on many aspects the importance of the remaining virgin forests in the Romanian Carpathians for the European natural heritage. The widespread extensive powerlessness and the lack of interest of state institutions to protect virgin and old forests are also meticulously portrayed. The investigations on a profound corruption and a criminal mixture in the forestry and timber sector that has developed in the interplay of politics, administration and corporate actors is shocking. Knowing about the large-scale loggings in protected areas, the study also picks out as a central theme and question why the EU institutions have shown very few reactions for many years. The authors demand that it must be a pan-European concern to protect the last coherent virgin forests in the more central parts of Europe. This is also formulated as a key element in the EU's Biodiversity Strategy 2030. Romania will be a litmus test as to whether this will succeed.
... The growth ring series database, includes more than twenty thousand tree core samples, demonstrates that these disturbances form a natural part of the forest development cycle. Results of scientific works are already extensively published (inter alia Cailleret et al. 2018, Vítková et al. 2018, Mikoláš et al. 2019, Lábusová et al. 2019. ...
Book
Full-text available
The report (virgin forests at the heart of Europe) provides an overview of the distribution and situation of the last remaining large-scale virgin forests in Central Europe, with a particular focus on Romania. Most people usually associate images of destruction of forests with tropical rain forests. But this also takes place right here on our doorsteps. We in Europe share a global responsibility to protect our unique, irreplaceable natural heritage. These Carpathian forests are some of the last remaining wildernesses, and a precious archive of biodiversity, history, of impressive images and beauty. As consumers, processors and sellers of timber and wood-based products we all have responsibility to stop the pressures placed on these forests, and have the duty to protect this natural heritage for future generations.
... The formerly inaccessible area is important both for its concentration in primary forests, as revealed by its latest inventory [6], but also for the major forest management challenges it presents, due to a significant change in forest land tenure and consequently different pressures related to the forest use. Although Făgăras , Mts. is covered by one of the largest complexes of temperate primary forests in the EU, most of these forests are without protection and are being logged increasingly, mainly by salvage logging [21,25]. ...
Article
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Research Highlights: Past disturbances occurred naturally in primary forests in the Southern Carpathians. High-and moderate-severity disturbances shaped the present structure of these ecosystems, which regenerated successfully without forestry interventions. Background and Objectives: Windstorms and bark beetle outbreaks have recently affected large forest areas across the globe, causing concerns that these disturbances lie outside the range of natural variability of forest ecosystems. This often led to salvage logging inside protected areas, one of the main reasons for primary forest loss in Eastern Europe. Although more than two-thirds of temperate primary forests in Europe are located in the Carpathian region of Eastern Europe, knowledge about how natural disturbances shape the forest dynamics in this region is highly essential for future management decisions. Material and Methods: We established our study in a primary forest valley situated in the centre of the largest temperate primary forest landscape in Europe (Făgăras , Mountains). A dendrochronological investigation was carried out to reconstruct the natural disturbance history and relate it to the present forest structure. Results: The dendrochronological analysis revealed high temporal variability in the disturbance patterns both at the patch and stand level. Moderate severity disturbance events were most common (20-40% of canopy disturbed in 60% of the plots) but high severity events did also occur (33% of the plots). Regeneration was spruce-dominated and 71% of the seedlings were found on deadwood microsites. Conclusions: We conclude that the current structure of the studied area is a consequence of the past moderate-severity disturbances and sporadic high-severity events. The peak in disturbances (1880-1910) followed by reduced disturbance rates may contribute to a recent and future increase in disturbances in the Făgăras , Mts. Our findings show that these disturbance types are within the range of natural variability of mountain spruce forests in the Southern Carpathians and should not be a reason for salvage logging in primary forests from this area.
... European old-growth forests are estimated to occupy only 0.7% of the total forested area . These fragmented forest patches are mainly confined to remote mountain areas with low levels of human pressure (Mikoláš et al., 2019). ...
Article
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Old-growth mountain forests represent an ideal setting for studying long-term impacts of climate change. We studied the few remnants of old-growth forests located within the Pollino massif (southern Italy) to evaluate how the growth of conspecific young and old trees responded to climate change. We investigated two conifer species (Abies alba and Pinus leucodermis) and two hardwood species (Fagus sylvatica and Quercus cerris). We sampled one stand per species along an altitudinal gradient, ranging from a drought-limited low-elevation hardwood forest to a cold-limited subalpine pine forest. We used a dendrochronological approach to characterize the long-term growth dynamics of old (age > 120 years) versus young (age < 120 years) trees. Younger trees grew faster than their older conspecifics during their juvenile stage, regardless of species. Linear mixed effect models were used to quantify recent growth trends (1950–2015) and responses to climate for old and young trees. Climate sensitivity, expressed as radial growth responses to climate during the last three decades, partially differed between species because high spring temperatures enhanced conifer growth, whereas F. sylvatica growth was negatively affected by warmer spring conditions. Furthermore, tree growth was negatively impacted by summer drought in all species. Climate sensitivity differed between young and old trees, with younger trees tending to be more sensitive in P. leucodermis and A. alba, whereas older F. sylvatica trees were more sensitive. In low-elevation Q. cerris stands, limitation of growth due to drought was not related to tree age, suggesting symmetric water competition. We found evidence for a fast-growth trend in young individuals compared with that in their older conspecifics. Notably, old trees tended to have relatively stable growth rates, showing remarkable resistance to climate warming. These responses to climate change should be recognized when forecasting the future dynamics of old-growth forests for their sustainable management.
... High-conservation-value forests (HCVFs) have a history of forest continuity and are typically composed of late-successional stands with structurally complex canopy and low levels of anthropogenic disturbance (Munteanu et al., 2015;Watson et al., 2018;Wirth et al., 2009). These forests provide valuable ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration, and harbor high levels of biodiversity, including many endangered lichens, insects, and birds (Eckelt et al., 2018;Malíček et al., 2019;Mikoláš et al., 2019). Yet, increasing anthropogenic pressure accelerates the rate of HCVF loss (Curtis et al., 2018) and changes forest ecosystem dynamics (McDowell et al., 2020). ...
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High conservation value forests (HCVF) are critically important for biodiversity and ecosystem service provisioning, but face manifold threats. Where systematic HCVF inventories are missing, such as in parts of Eastern Europe, these forests remain largely unacknowledged and therefore often unprotected. Here, we propose a novel, transferable approach for detecting HCVF, based on integrating historical spy satellite images, contemporary remote sensing data and information on current anthropogenic pressures. Using Romania as a pilot‐study, we mapped forest continuity (1955‐2019), canopy structural complexity, and anthropogenic pressures, and identified a large area (738,000 ha) of HCVF. More than half of this area is susceptible to current anthropogenic pressures and lacks formal protection. By providing a framework for broad‐scale HCVF monitoring, our approach facilitates integration of HCVF into forest conservation and management. This is urgently needed to achieve the goals of the European Union's Biodiversity Strategy to maintain valuable forest ecosystems. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
... Relatively well-preserved forest (e.g. Mikolá et al. 2019) covers nearly 90% of the area. The upper tree line was lowered at some places in the past (especially during the Wallachian colonization) and now lies at ca. 1350 m a.s.l. in this area. ...
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Knowledge about spatial distribution of owl species is important for inferring species coexistence mechanisms. In the present study, we explore spatial patterns of distribution and habitat selection of four owl species-Eurasian pygmy owl (Glaucidium passerinum), boreal owl (Aegolius funereus), tawny owl (Strix aluco) and Ural owl (Strix uralensis)-ranging in body mass from 50 g to 1300 g, with sympatric occurrence in temperate continuous montane forests in the Veľká Fatra Mts., Western Carpathians, central Slovakia. Locations of hooting owl males were surveyed between 2009-2015 in an area of 317 km 2. Spatial point pattern analysis was used for analysis of owl distribution. Random patterns of owls' spatial arrangement dominate at both intra and interspecific levels within the studied area. Only intraspecific distribution of pygmy owls and interspecific distribution of Ural owls toward tawny owls exhibited positive associations. This discrepancy with other studies can be explained in terms of pygmy owls' preference for highquality nest sites and/or spatial clustering in their prey distribution, and due to aggressive behaviour of dominant Ural owls toward subdominant tawny owls, respectively. Moreover, we found considerable overlap in habitat preferences between owl species, considering stand age, stand height, tree species richness, distance to open area, elevation , slope, percentage of coniferous tree species and position on hillslope, although pygmy owls were not registered in pure broadleaved stands, Ural owls were not registered in pure coniferous stands, and boreal and Ural owls were more common on slope summits and shoulders than tawny and pygmy owls. The observed patterns of spatial arrangement might suggest developed coexistence mechanisms in these owl species; differences between studies may indicate complex interactions between intra and interspecific associations and habitat quality and quantity, food availability and owl species involved in those interactions on a landscape scale.
... We selected 10 primary spruce forest stands from an existing inventory of the primary forests of Slovakia (Mikoláš et al., 2019;REMOTE project: www.remot efore sts.org/proje ct.php). The stands ranged in size from 100 to 300 ha and were selected from a landscape of approximately 4,800 km 2 across five mountain ranges in the Western Carpathians ( Figure 1). ...
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Aim Natural disturbances influence forest structure, successional dynamics, and, consequently, the distribution of species through time and space. We quantified the long-term impacts of natural disturbances on lichen species richness and composition in primary mountain forests, with a particular focus on the occurrence of endangered species. Location Ten primary mountain spruce forest stands across five mountain chains of the Western Carpathians, a European hotspot of biodiversity. Methods Living trees, snags, and downed logs were surveyed for epiphytic and epixylic lichens in 57 plots. Using reconstructed disturbance history, we tested how lichen species richness and composition was affected by the current forest structure and disturbance regimes in the past 250 years. We also examined differences in community composition among discrete microhabitats. Results Dead standing trees as biological legacies of natural disturbances promoted lichen species richness and occurrence of threatened species at the plot scale, suggesting improved growing conditions for rare and common lichens during the early stages of recovery post-disturbance. However, high-severity disturbances compromised plot scale species richness. Both species richness and the number of old-growth specialists increased with time since disturbance (i.e. long-term uninterrupted succession). No lichen species was strictly dependent on live trees as a habitat, but numerous species showed specificity to logs, standing objects, or admixture of tree species. Main conclusions Lichen species richness was lower in regenerating, young, and uniform plots compared to overmature and recently disturbed areas. Natural forest dynamics and its legacies are critical to the diversity and species composition of lichens. Spatiotemporal consequences of natural dynamics require a sufficient area of protected forests for provisioning continual habitat variability at the landscape scale. Ongoing climatic changes may further accentuate this necessity. Hence, we highlighted the need to protect the last remaining primary forests to ensure the survival of regionally unique species pools of lichens.
... Thirty primary forest stands with no signs of human management were selected in the subalpine zone of the Carpathian Mountains. Stands with no evidence of direct human influence, such as logging or livestock grazing, were selected with the help of local experts or primary forest inventories [31]. The studied forests occupy altitudes ranging from 1150 to 1700 m.a.s.l. ...
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With accelerating environmental change, understanding forest disturbance impacts on trade-offs between biodiversity and carbon dynamics is of high socioeconomic importance. Most studies, however, have assessed immediate or short-term effects of disturbance, while long-term impacts remain poorly understood. Using a tree-ring-based approach, we analysed the effect of 250 years of disturbances on present-day biodiversity indicators and carbon dynamics in primary forests. Disturbance legacies spanning centuries shaped contemporary forest co-benefits and trade-offs, with contrasting, local-scale effects. Disturbances enhanced carbon sequestration, reaching maximum rates within a comparatively narrow post-disturbance window (up to 50 years). Concurrently, disturbance diminished aboveground carbon storage, which gradually returned to peak levels over centuries. Temporal patterns in biodiversity potential were bimodal; the first maximum coincided with the short-term post-disturbance carbon sequestration peak, and the second occurred during periods of maximum carbon storage in complex old-growth forest. Despite fluctuating local-scale trade-offs, forest biodiversity and carbon storage remained stable across the broader study region, and our data support a positive relationship between carbon stocks and biodiversity potential. These findings underscore the interdependencies of forest processes, and highlight the necessity of large-scale conservation programmes to effectively promote both biodiversity and long-term carbon storage, particularly given the accelerating global biodiversity and climate crises.
... 1). Stands with no evidence of direct human influence, such as logging or livestock grazing, were selected with the help of local experts or primary forest inventories (Mikol a s et al. 2019). In stands of the Bohemian Forest, the prevailing influence of natural disturbances was evident by the significant association of reconstructed events and windstorm and bark beetle (Ips typographus) outbreak events in historical records (see Cada et al. 2016 for more details about possible human influence in these stands). ...
Article
Estimates of historical disturbance patterns are essential to guide forest management aimed at ensuring the sustainability of ecosystem functions and biodiversity. However, quantitative estimates of various disturbance characteristics required in management applications are rare in longer‐term historical studies. Thus, our objectives were to: (1) quantify past disturbance severity, patch size, and stand proportion disturbed, and (2) test for temporal and sub‐regional differences in these characteristics. We developed a comprehensive dendrochronological method to evaluate an approximately two‐century‐long disturbance record in the remaining Central and Eastern European primary mountain spruce forests, where wind and bark beetles are the predominant disturbance agents. We used an unprecedented large‐scale nested design dataset of 541 plots located within 44 stands and 6 sub‐regions. To quantify individual disturbance events, we used tree‐ring proxies, which were aggregated at plot and stand levels by smoothing and detecting peaks in their distributions. The spatial aggregation of disturbance events was used to estimate patch sizes. Data exhibited continuous gradients from low‐ to high‐severity and small‐ to large‐size disturbance events. In addition to the importance of small disturbance events, moderate‐scale (25‐75% of the stand disturbed, >10 ha patch size) and moderate‐severity (25‐75% of canopy disturbed) events were also common. Moderate disturbances represented more than 50% of the total disturbed area and their rotation periods ranged from one to several hundred years, which is within the lifespan of local tree species. Disturbance severities differed among sub‐regions, whereas the stand proportion disturbed varied significantly over time. This indicates partially independent variations among disturbance characteristics. Our quantitative estimates of disturbance severity, patch size, stand proportion disturbed, and associated rotation periods provide rigorous baseline data for future ecological research, decisions within biodiversity conservation, and silviculture intended to maintain native biodiversity and ecosystem functions. These results highlight a need for sufficiently large and adequately connected networks of strict reserves, more complex silvicultural treatments that emulate the natural disturbance spectrum in harvest rotation times, sizes, and intensities, and higher levels of tree and structural legacy retention.
... Boubin forest is a typical representative of mixed mountain old-growth forest, serving as an "etalon" in the formation of traditional concepts of close-to-nature forest management [104,105]. Thus, our results might be extrapolated to analogical natural forests across the Europe, e.g., Novohradske Mts. in Central Europe [16], the Carphatians [18,19,106], the Alps [11,107], the Balkan peninsula [22,108] and Apennines [109]. This study determined several mutually overlapping factors that might contribute to wholestand resistance to severe storms. ...
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The driving forces of tree mortality following wind disturbances of mountain mixed European temperate forests belongs among issues not comprehensively resolved. Hence, we aimed to elucidate the key factors of tree resistance to historical severe disturbance events in the Boubínský Primeval Forest, one of the oldest forest reserves in the Czech Republic. By using spatially explicit tree census, dendrochronological and soil data, we study spatial and temporal patterns of past disturbances and mathematically compared selected characteristics of neighboring trees that were killed by a severe storm in 2017 and those that remained undisturbed. The tendency of trees toward falling was primarily driven edaphically, limiting severe events non-randomly to previously disturbed sites occupied by hydromorphic soils and promoting the existence of two spatially-separated disturbance regimes. While disturbed trees usually recruited in gaps and experienced only one severe release event, surviving trees characteristically regenerated under the canopy and were repeatedly released. Despite the fact that disturbed trees tended to reach both lower ages and dimensions than survivors, they experienced significantly higher growth rates. Our study indicates that slow growth with several suppression periods emerged as the most effective tree strategy for withstanding severe windstorms, dying of senescence in overaged life stage. Despite the selective impact of the Herwart storm on conifer population, we did not find any difference in species sensitivity for most characteristics studied. We conclude that the presence of such ancient, high-density wood trees contributes significantly to the resistance of an entire stand to severe storms.
... To fill this gap, in this research we analyse the spatial heterogeneity of canopy openness in multiaged old-growth forests formed by European beech, silver fir and Norway spruce . To capture the possible wide range of variation in structural attributes and the disturbance regime driving this forest ecosystem, we sampled old-growth stands growing in the Western Carpathians (Central Europe) and Dinaric Mountains (Southeastern Europe) which are believed to retain the structural attributes and dynamics of primeval forests (Mikoláš et al., 2019;Sabatini et al., 2018). At the between-stand level, we assume that average canopy openness is associated with the number and basal area of trees forming the overstory and that denser stands have lower canopy openness. ...
Article
The action of many agents causing the mortality of overstory trees may potentially induce the formation of an aggregated distribution of canopy gaps. In this study we tested the hypothesis that natural stand dynamics generates an aggregated pattern of canopy openness in old-growth forests formed by Fagus sylvatica L., Abies alba Mill. and Picea abies (L.) H. Karst. We compared canopy openness and its spatial heterogeneity in five stands in the Western Carpathians (Central Europe) and three stands in the Dinaric Mountains (Southeast Europe). The stands were between 4.48 and 9.24 ha in size. In each stand we took hemispheric photographs in a regular 20 × 20 m grid in the leafless period to minimize coverage by the understory. Tree species and the dbh of live trees of dbh ≥7 cm were recorded on circular plots with a radius of 7 m centered at the grid points. At the stage of picture processing, understory trees of dbh <25 cm and polar coordinates recorded during field measurements were removed from the pictures, and for every grid point the local canopy openness of the overstory layer was determined in the sky region defined by a zenith angle of 15°. We characterized the spatial pattern of canopy openness by using variograms and Moran’s I coefficients and tested the spatial dependence in the distribution patterns of grid points characterized by different levels of canopy openness. Depending on the stand, mean canopy openness varied between 17.5 and 41.0%, with the greatest values recorded in the Carpathian stands with a considerable proportion of Norway spruce and a more severe disturbance regime. Relationships between canopy openness and the overall number, basal area or volume of trees forming the overstory were strongly modified by variation in the density and species percentage in the mid-canopy zone. In all the stands small-scale variation determined for inter-point distances of 20 m accounted for the majority of the total variation in canopy heterogeneity and ranged between 61 and 100%. We found a tendency to form random patterns of canopy openness in the Dinaric stands, which were characterized by a greater basal area and probably also lower frequency of severe disturbances, and aggregated patterns in the Carpathian stands, which were characterized by a smaller basal area driven by more severe disturbances. The revealed spatial dependence in canopy openness may suggest that in the studied ecosystem canopy gaps are not only a legacy of the mortality of canopy trees but also self-organizing structural elements which, under a more severe disturbance regime, can affect the mortality rate in their neighbourhood. Nonetheless, the percentage of spatially structured variability in canopy openness observable at scales larger than the grid spacing used in our study was insignificant (83% on average). The close-to-random pattern of canopy heterogeneity may weaken the spatio-temporal synchronization of the juvenile growth, maturation and senescence of neighbouring trees and counteract the formation of coarse-grained patch mosaics.
... Expanding frontiers of clear-cut forestry (e.g. Seedre et al. 2018; into such areas is a main cause of forest and biodiversity loss worldwide Venier et al. 2018;Mikoláš et al. 2019;Betts et al. 2021). More ambitious conservation Communicated by José Valentin Roces-Diaz. ...
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Intact forest landscapes harbor significant biodiversity values and pools of ecosystem services essential for conservation, land use and rural development. Threatened by fragmentation and loss by transitions to industrial clear-cut forestry, those landscapes are of pivotal interest for protection that secures their intact character. With wall-to-wall land-cover data, we explored opportunities for maintaining intact forest landscapes through comprehensive spatial planning across a 2.5 million hectares boreal to sub-alpine forest region along the eastern slopes of the Scandinavian Mountain range. We analyzed forest and woodland types that are protected, need protection or potentially can be subject to continued forest management. We established that the fraction of already clear-cut forest is very small and that the forest landscape of the Scandinavian Mountain foothills contains a high proportion of protected high conservation value forests, covering almost 2 million ha, and that over 500,000 ha (27%) remains unprotected and may be subject to future protection or continued adapted forest management. We found evident north to south differences with respect to forest landscape configuration, distribution of unprotected forests and land ownership. With a focus on non-industrial private landowners, we conclude that sustainable land-use requires integrative, multi-functional approaches that rely on further protection, forest and forest landscape restoration and a much larger share of continuous cover forestry than presently. Our results provide input into ongoing policy implementation and green infrastructure planning in the context of securing intact forest values and integrative opportunities for rural livelihood and regional development based on multiple value chains.
... Moreover, the distribution, composition, and dynamics of European forest landscapes have been fundamentally altered by millennia of human influence Kaplan et al., 2009;Keeton et al., 2013;Pretzsch et al., 2017). Consequently, finding reference forests in which to observe baseline disturbance dynamics is needed, but also highly challenging, because only small fragments of primary or old-growth forests remain in most places (Mikol aš et al., 2019;Szwagrzyk & Gazda, 2007). The proportion of remnant old-growth (primary) forests is only 0.7% of the forest cover in Europe (without Russia), with montane beech forests overrepresented relative to other forest types (Sabatini et al., 2018). ...
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In Europe, forest management has controlled forest dynamics to sustain commodity production over multiple centuries. Yet over‐regulation for growth and yield diminishes resilience to environmental stress as well as threatens biodiversity, leading to increasing forest susceptibility to an array of disturbances. These trends have stimulated interest in alternative management systems, including natural dynamics silviculture (NDS). NDS aims to emulate natural disturbance dynamics at stand and landscape scales through silvicultural manipulations of forest structure and landscape patterns. We adapted a “Comparability Index” (CI) to assess convergence/divergence between natural disturbances and forest management effects. We extended the original CI concept based on disturbance size and frequency by adding the residual structure of canopy trees after a disturbance as a third dimension. We populated the model by compiling data on natural disturbance dynamics and management from 13 countries in Europe, covering four major forest types (i.e., spruce, beech, oak, and pine‐dominated forests). We found that natural disturbances are highly variable in size, frequency, and residual structure, but European forest management fails to encompass this complexity. Silviculture in Europe is skewed towards even‐aged systems, used predominately (72.9% of management) across the countries assessed. The residual structure proved crucial in the comparison of natural disturbances and silvicultural systems. CI indicated the highest congruence between uneven‐aged silvicultural systems and key natural disturbance attributes. Even so, uneven‐aged practices emulated only a portion of the complexity associated with natural disturbance effects. The remaining silvicultural systems perform poorly in terms of retention as compared to tree survivorship after natural disturbances. We suggest that NDS can enrich Europe's portfolio of management systems, for example where wood production is not the primary objective. NDS is especially relevant to forests managed for habitat quality, risk reduction, and a variety of ecosystem services. We suggest a holistic approach integrating natural dynamics silviculture with more conventional practices.
... Forest naturalness of Czech localities was taken from the Czech Natural Forests website (www.naturalforests.cz) and for the Slovak ones from an unpublished map related to the work by Jasík et al. (2017) and Mikoláš et al. (2019). ...
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Open access version available at Czech Mycology web page: http://www.czechmycology.org/_cmo/CM74106.pdf. Abstract: Records of Cyphella digitalis from the Czech Republic and Slovakia are summarised and discussed. ITS barcode of two collections was obtained to document their conspecificity with the only so far sequenced sample originating from the Alps. In the study area, C. digitalis is rare with ten localities known from the 20th century and nine recorded in the 21st century. They are situated in the Bohemian Forest and several mountain ranges of the Western and Eastern Carpathians. The elevation range of the records is 525–1200 m a.s.l. All records are from Abies alba, mostly branches attached to freshly fallen trunks and sticking out into the air. Basidiomata occur in Fagus-Abies or Fagus-AbiesPicea forests from September to March with a peak in September–November. Most stands represent old-growth forests under protection. Ecology and distribution are discussed in a broad European context. The much lower number of records in the Czech Republic and Slovakia compared to more western countries could have, among other things, also biogeographical reasons, i.e. decrease in occurrence with increasing continentality to the east
... However, between 1985 and 2010, capercaillie habitats in Carpathians have contracted by 15% (a loss of 1110 km 2 of suitable habitats) and habitat connectivity has decreased by 33% (Mikoláš et al. 2017b). Many researchers have attributed those losses to clear-cutting, salvage harvests after disturbance, and illegal logging, which all contribute to vast losses of mature and old-growth forests (Irland 2008;Kuemmerle et al. 2009;Klinga et al. 2015;Křenová and Kindlmann 2015;Butsic et al. 2016;Mikoláš et al. 2019b), as well as increased human disturbances, such as new road construction into large forest complexes for logging operations, tourism, and rural development (Knorn et al. 2012a). Recent gradual loss and fragmentation of capercaillie habitats suggests that information about connectivity among populations and effective population size is critical to conservation planning (van Strien et al. 2014;Mikoláš et al. 2017b;Klinga et al. 2019). ...
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A major concern in conservation biology today is the loss of genetic diversity in structured populations, which is often a consequence of habitat contraction and restricted gene flow over time. These dynamic biological processes require monitoring with temporal environmental and landscape genetic data. We compared the spatial genetic variation of a relict, umbrella species, the capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), in two different demographic periods, as represented by older museum specimens (1960–1990) and recent non-invasive samples (2011–2015) collected from the Carpathian Mountains, where habitat connectivity has dramatically decreased in the past decade. Using a combination of species distribution modelling and spatial genetic inference, we analysed how climatic and environmental constraints shaped population structures of the species. Environmental and climate niche models confirmed that relict Carpathian capercaillie populations are temperature sensitive, and they occur in a narrow range of mountain forest habitats at the highest altitudes. We found that the environmental and climatic constraints led to genetically isolated populations, but we also detected clusters that did not match relatively interrupted areas of niche habitats. We observed a similar disruption of gene flow in both periods; however, a stronger signal of genetic structuring in recent samples indicated that the processes negatively affecting connectivity are ongoing. The effective population size of the Carpathian population has declined in recent years, but it has been low for at least the last five decades in the Western Carpathians. This study demonstrates the importance of temporal ecological and genetic data as an effective warning tool for the conservation and management of wildlife species.
... Primary forests can be especially valuable biodiversity refugia in any landscape condition we conclude. The current concern with its continuous loss [106][107][108][109] is justified. However, detailed studies in land-use history are necessary to detect whether an old-growth forest in landscapes influenced by humans long ago is truly primary (as re-vealed for the PrFS in the Visim NBR). ...
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One of the essential tasks of sustainable forest management is to maintain native biodiversity. Primary forest research is one of the ways to understand what this biodiversity is. Matherials and methods. The primary, as confirmed by their land-use history and structural peculiarities, mesic dark-conifer forests remain in Visim and Pechora–Ilych nature biosphere reserves (boreal and sub-boreal zones respectively, the Ural Mountains, Russian Federation). We compared the primary forests and post fire 100-year small-leaved deciduous forests by diversity of vascular flora and soil invertebrate macrofauna. Results and discussion. The diversity of some functional groups of species (low boreal herbs, earthworms) in post fire forests is lower than in primary forests, the research shows. These species largely depend on deadwood and other tree-related microhabitats common in the primary forests but not so in the 100-year post fire forests. Repeated fires at intervals of several decades, as is the case with the use of prescribed fires in forest management, will be expected to reduce the biodiversity quality of these specialist species. Additionally, we revealed that post fire forest flora is more synanthropic in the woodland of a small area (Visim reserve) than in the intact forest landscape (Pechora–Ilych reserve). It demonstrates that, within extensive woodlands, native forests are more resilient to sporadic stand-replacing disturbances than small woodlands. Conclusion. Strict conservation of intact forest landscapes is necessary as they serve as large buffer areas around the remaining primary forests to maintain native biodiversity.
... The study area includes a zone of supramontane Norway spruce forests of the Western Carpathians (Slovakia, Central Europe, Fig. 1). A network of permanent plots was established within 11 localities and five mountain ranges using random sampling in the core zones of primary forest areas (as evaluated by a previous national-level field census; Mikoláš et al. 2019). A 141.4 × 141.4 m grid (cell size 2 ha) was overlaid on the area; within each grid cell, a circular sample plot was established at a restricted random position (the inner 0.49 ha core in each cell) using GPS (see Svoboda et al. 2014;Janda et al. 2017 for details). ...
Article
Development of primary spruce forests is driven by a series of disturbances, which also have an important influence on the understorey vegetation and its diversity. Early post-disturbance processes have been intensively studied, however, very little is known about the long-term effects of disturbances on the understorey. We quantified disturbance history using dendrochronological methods to investigate its impact on vascular plant diversity and understorey species composition. We sampled 141 plots randomly assigned throughout primary stands located in the zone of natural montane acidophilous forests dominated by Picea abies (L.) Karst. in the Western Carpathians. Dendrochronological, dendrometric, and environmental parameters were related to understorey properties using ordination methods and a Bayesian approach using multilevel linear models (GLMM). Time since the last disturbance (23–260 years ago; mostly windstorms and bark beetle outbreaks) had a significant effect on understorey species composition of the current communities, and it also interacted with disturbance severity to influence species diversity. The effect of disturbances on the understorey was largely mediated by the alteration of stand structure (age, DBH, canopy openness), Vaccinium myrtillus L. cover, and topsoil chemical properties. A period of severe disturbances between 1860 and 1890 resulted in a legacy of our current, relatively homogeneous spruce stands with less diverse sciophilous understorey dominated by V. myrtillus, which is in contrast to heterogeneous stands (in terms of age and spatial structure) driven by small-scale, lower-severity disturbances, which led to an understorey enriched by species with higher demands on light and topsoil quality (higher K concentration and lower C/N ratio). All developmental pathways following disturbances create a unique complex of spatiotemporal understorey variability in the montane spruce forests. Therefore, to preserve their full diversity, disturbances of all severities and sizes should be accepted as natural drivers, both in the field of nature conservation and close-to-nature forestry efforts.
... In primary forests in Central Europe, it is not possible to completely exclude any human influences on a forest stand, through, for example, grazing or selective logging. This forest inventory included a complex field survey, historical evidence from military maps of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1764 to 1768 and 1806 to 1869, and aerial images from the year 1950 (Mikoláš et al., 2019). From all identified primary forest sites in Slovakia, which includes around 10,000 ha of forests (www.pralesy.sk, ...
Article
Natural disturbances are key factors in the formation of forest ecosystem structure. Evaluation of the spatial and temporal extent of disturbance regimes is critical for understanding forest dynamics, forest structural hetero-geneity, and biodiversity habitats. Quantifying disturbance regimes is therefore imperative for appropriate management of forests and protected areas. However, natural disturbance regimes have rarely been assessed using dendrochronological methods on a regional scale across primary mixed beech-fir forest stands-one of the dominant forest vegetation types in Europe. To study the natural disturbance regimes of beech-dominated mixed-forest stands, we established 42 permanent study plots with an area of 0.1 ha across three primary forest stands in the Western Carpathians, a region that still contains large areas of primary forest. We reconstructed each stand-level disturbance history using a tree-ring based approach. The temporal synchronicity of disturbance events was then evaluated by delineating stand-level disturbance events using a kernel density function, and through the detection of plot-level disturbances with severities greater than 10 percent. The results obtained from the chronologies showed substantial variability in time and space, especially in the mid-19th century. Low-and moderate-severity plot-level disturbance events were most common, but high-and extremely high-severity plot-level disturbance events also occurred. The observed spatial and temporal variability suggests that the beech-dominated forests were primarily driven by mixed-severity disturbance regimes, with windstorms as the main disturbance agent. This reconstruction of the disturbance regime provided unique insight into the scale of mortality processes in these beech-dominated mixed forests. This information can help guide ecological forestry in areas where both wood production and biodiversity preservation are simultaneous goals, such as by employing more spatio-temporally-complex silvicultural systems that resemble natural disturbance patterns and facilitate heterogeneous forest structures.
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The expected future intensification of forest disturbance as a consequence of ongoing anthropogenic climate change highlights the urgent need to more robustly quantify associated biotic responses. Saproxylic beetles are a diverse group of forest invertebrates representing a major component of biodiversity that is associated with the decomposition and cycling of wood nutrients and carbon in forest ecosystems. Disturbance-induced declines or shifts in their diversity indicate the loss of key ecological and/or morphological species traits that could change ecosystem functioning. Functional and phylogenetic diversity of biological communities is commonly used to link species communities to ecosystem functions. However, our knowledge on how disturbance intensity alters functional and phylogenetic diversity of saproxylic beetles is incomplete. Here, we analyzed the main drivers of saproxylic beetle abundance and diversity using a comprehensive dataset from montane primary forests in Europe. We investigated cascading relationships between 250 years of historical disturbance mechanisms, forest structural attributes and the taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional diversity of present-day beetle communities. Our analyses revealed that historical disturbances have significant effects on current beetle communities. Contrary to our expectations, different aspects of beetle communities, that is, abundance, taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional diversity, responded to different disturbance regime components. Past disturbance frequency was the most important component influencing saproxylic beetle communities and habitat via multiple temporal and spatial pathways. The quantity of deadwood and its diameter positively influenced saproxylic beetle abundance and functional diversity, whereas phylogenetic diversity was positively influenced by canopy openness. Analyzing historical disturbances, we observed that current beetle diversity is far from static, such that the importance of various drivers might change during further successional development. Only forest landscapes that are large enough to allow for the full range of temporal and spatial patterns of disturbances and post-disturbance development will enable long-term species coexistence and their associated ecosystem functions.
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After a revision of Kneiffiella specimens from European old-growth forests in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia and Poland, Kneiffiella altaica was found to have a western distribution far from its type locality at Teletskoye lake in Altai mountains in Russia. Comparing further material from USA, we found a similar species, Kneiffiella subaltaica, which we describe as new to science based on molecular inference of the ITS and 28S DNA sequence and morphology.
Article
Understanding the processes shaping the composition of assemblages in response to disturbance events is crucial for preventing ongoing biodiversity loss in forest ecosystems. However, studies of forest biodiversity responses to disturbance typically analyze immediate or short-term impacts only, while studies relating long-term disturbance history to biodiversity assemblage dynamics are rare. To address this important knowledge gap, we used a dendroecological approach to link natural disturbance history of 250 years (1750-2000) to structural habitat elements and, in turn, to breeding bird assemblages. We used data collected in 2017 and 2018 from 58 permanent study plots within 10 primary spruce forest stands distributed across the Western Carpathian Mountains of Europe. This dataset contained breeding bird counts and environmental variables describing forest density, tree diameter distribution, tree height, tree microhabitats, deadwood quantity and quality, and regeneration. Bird assemblages were significantly influenced by forest structure which was in turn shaped by disturbance dynamics (disturbance frequency, time since the last disturbance and its severity). Early successional species associated with more open habitats were positively influenced by disturbance-related structure (i.e. deadwood-related variables, canopy cover), while some species responded negatively. At the same time, overall abundance, species richness and Shannon diversity of the bird assemblage remained unchanged under variable disturbance histories. Our results support a view of primary spruce forests as a highly dynamic ecosystem, harbouring populations of bird species at all stages of succession despite significant structural changes and shifting patch mosaics over time due to natural disturbances.
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Natural disturbances strongly influence forest structural dynamics, and subsequently stand structural heterogeneity, biomass, and forest functioning. The impact of disturbance legacies on current forest structure can greatly influence how we interpret drivers of forest dynamics. However, without clear insight into forest history, many studies default to coarse assumptions about forest structure, for example, whether forests are even or unevenly aged. The aim of this study was to analyze the effects of past disturbances on the current diameter distributions of Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.)-dominated landscapes throughout the Carpathian Mountains. Our dendroecological dataset comprises tree cores from 339 plots (7,845 total tree cores), nested within 28 primary forest stands, known to vary greatly in the severity of historical disturbances. Our analyses revealed that historical disturbances had a strong and significant effect on the current diameter distribution shapes at the plot level. We demonstrated that mixed-severity disturbance regimes were more frequent and create a complex pattern of diameter distributions at the plot and stand scale. Here, we show that high severity disturbance was associated with unimodal diameter distributions, while low and moderate severity was associated with the reverse J-shaped distribution. This is a result of complex disturbance patterns, with structural biological legacies. Our results will have important management implication in the context of tree size heterogeneity, biomass storage, and productivity as influenced by natural disturbances. Lastly, these results demonstrate that structural changes may arise as consequences of changing disturbance regime associated with global change.
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The aim of the study was to compare a patch-mosaic pattern in the old-growth forest stands developed in various climate and soil conditions occurring in different regions of Poland. Based on the assumption, that the patch-mosaic pattern in the forest reflect the dynamic processes taking place in it, and that each type of forest ecosystem is characterized by a specific regime of natural disturbances, the following hypotheses were formulated: (i) the patches with a complex structure in stands composed of latesuccessional, shade-tolerant tree species are more common than those composed of early-successional, light-demanding ones, (ii) the patch-mosaic pattern is more heterogeneous in optimal forest site conditions than in extreme ones, (iii) in similar site conditions differentiation of the stand structure in distinguished patches is determined by the successional status of the tree species forming a given patch, (iv) the successional trends leading to changes of species composition foster diversification of the patch structure, (v) differentiation of the stand structure is negatively related to their local basal area, especially in patches with a high level of its accumulation. Among the best-preserved old-growth forest remaining under strict protection in the Polish national parks, nineteen research plots of around 10 ha each were selected. In each plot, a grid (50 × 50 m) of circular sample subplots (with radius 12,62 m) was established. In the sample subplots, species and diameter at breast height of living trees (dbh ≥ 7 cm) were determined. Subsequently, for each sample subplot, several numerical indices were calculated: local basal area (G), dbh structure differentiation index (STR), climax index (CL) and successional index (MS). Statistical tests of Kruskal- Wallis, Levene and Generalized Additive Models (GAM) were used to verify the hypotheses. All examined forests were characterized by a large diversity of stand structure. A particularly high frequency of highly differentiated patches (STR > 0,6) was recorded in the alder swamp forest. The patch mosaic in the examined plots was different – apart from the stands with a strongly pronounced mosaic character (especially subalpine spruce forests), there were also stands with high spatial homogeneity (mainly fir forests). The stand structure in the distinguished patches was generally poorly related to the other studied features. Consequently, all hypotheses were rejected. These results indicate a very complex, mixed pattern of forest natural dynamics regardless of site conditions. In beech forests and lowland multi-species deciduous forests, small-scale disturbances of the gap dynamics type dominate, which are overlapped with less frequent medium-scale disturbances. In more difficult site conditions, large-scale catastrophic disturbances, which occasionally appear in communities formed under the influence of gap dynamics (mainly spruce forests) or cohort dynamics (mainly pine forests), gain importance.
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Understanding the processes shaping the composition of assemblages at multiple spatial scales in response to disturbance events is crucial for preventing ongoing biodiversity loss and for improving current forest management policies aimed at mitigating climate change and enhancing forest resilience. Deadwood-inhabiting fungi represent an essential component of forest ecosystems through their association with deadwood decomposition and the cycling of nutrients and carbon. Although we have sufficient evidence for the fundamental role of deadwood availability and variability of decay stages for fungal species diversity, the influence of long-term natural disturbance regimes as the main driver of deadwood quantity and quality has not been sufficiently documented. We used a dendroecological approach to analyse the effect of 250-years of historical natural disturbance and structural habitat elements on local (plot-level) and regional (stand-level) species richness of deadwood-inhabiting fungi. We used data collected from 51 study plots within nine best-preserved primary spruce forest stands distributed across the Western Carpathian Mountains. Historical disturbances shaped the contemporary local and regional species richness of fungi, with contrasting impacts of disturbance regime components at different spatial scales. While local diversity of red-listed species has increased due to higher disturbance frequency, regional diversity of all species has decreased due to higher severity historical disturbances. The volume of deadwood positively influenced the species richness of deadwood-inhabiting fungi while canopy openness had a negative impact. The high number of observed rare species highlights the important role of primary forests for biodiversity conservation. From a landscape perspective, we can conclude that the distribution of species from the regional species pool is-at least to some extent-driven by past spatiotemporal patterns of disturbance events. Natural disturbances occurring at higher frequencies that create a mosaic forest structure are necessary for fungal species-especially for rare and endangered taxa. Thus, both the protection of intact forest landscapes and forest management practises that emulate natural disturbance processes are recommended to support habitats of diverse fungal communities and their associated ecosystem functions.
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The impact of forest management on biodiversity is difficult to scrutinize along gradients of management. A step towards analyzing the impact of forest management on biodiversity is comparisons between managed and primary forests. The standardized typology of tree-related microhabitats (TreMs) is a multi-taxon indicator used to quantify forest biodiversity. We aim to analyze the influence of environmental factors on the occurrence of groups of TreMs by comparing primary and managed forests. We collected data for the managed forests in the Black Forest (Germany) and for the primary forests in the Western (Slovakia) and Southern Carpathians (Romania). To model the richness and the different groups of TreMs per tree, we used generalized linear mixed models with diameter at breast height (DBH), altitude, slope and aspect as predictors for European beech ( Fagus sylvatica (L.)) , Norway spruce ( Picea abies (L.) ) and silver fir ( Abies alba (Mill.) ) in primary and managed temperate mountain forests. We found congruent results for overall richness and the vast majority of TreM groups. Trees in primary forests hosted a greater richness of all and specific types of TreMs than individuals in managed forests. The main drivers of TreMs are DBH and altitude, while slope and aspect play a minor role. We recommend forest and nature conservation managers to focus: 1) on the conservation of remaining primary forests and 2) approaches of biodiversity-oriented forest management on the selection of high-quality habitat trees that already provide a high number of TreMs in managed forests based on the comparison with primary forests.
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When management for old-growth characteristics in eastern forests first began to be discussed in the late twentieth century, there was skepticism from some quarters as to whether it was a desirable or even a feasible idea. Old growth will recover on its own. Why not just let nature take its course? There were also those who saw little value in managing for old-growth features, perceiving this as a threat to more traditional management objectives (Puettmann et al. 2015). Since that time, concepts of managing for stand structural complexity, in ways that encourage some characteristics of old-growth forests, have caught on in a variety of contexts (Bauhus et al. 2009; Puettmann et al. 2009). In many ways this shift mirrors how the profession has grown to embrace multifunctional forestry broadly defined (Gustafsson et al. 2012). Old-growth silviculture increasingly has a place within this framework, filling the niche of enhancing the representation of late successional forests on landscapes where they are now vastly underrepresented relative to their abundance on landscapes prior to Euro-American settlement (Lorimer and White 2003; Rhemtulla et al. 2007). The working hypothesis is that this type of management will contribute to sustainable forest practices focused on providing a broad array of ecosystem goods and services, including those associated with late successional systems. And in recent decades there has been increasing interest in old-growth restoration more narrowly and management for older forest characteristics in working forests generally, both in terms of experimental research (e.g., Keeton 2006; Gronewold et al. 2010; Forrester et al. 2013; Palik et al. 2014) and practical applications (Hagenbuch et al. 2013; Fassnacht et al. 2015).
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Forests provide numerous ecosystem services, such as timber yields, biodiversity protection and climate change mitigation. The type of management has an effect on the provision of these services. Often the demands for these services can lead to conflict – wood harvest can negatively impact biodiversity and climate change mitigation capacity. Although forest management differences are important, spatially explicit data is lacking, in particular on a global scale. We present here a first systematic approach which integrates existing data to map forest management globally through downscaling national and subnational forest data. In our forest management classification, we distinguished between two levels of forest management, with three categories each. Level 1 comprised primary, naturally regrown and planted forests. Level 2 distinguished between different forest uses. We gathered documented locations, where these forest categories were observed, from the literature and a database on ecological diversity. We then performed multinomial logit regression and estimated the effect of 21 socio-economic and bio-physical predictor variables on the occurrence of a forest category. Model results on significance and effect direction of predictor variables were in line with findings of previous studies. Soil and environmental properties, forest conditions and accessibility are important determinants of the occurrence of forest management types. Based on the model results, likelihood maps were calculated and used to spatially allocate national extents of level 1 and level 2 forest categories. When compared to previous studies, our maps showed higher agreement than random samples. Deviations between observed and predicted plantation locations were mostly below 10 km. Our map provides an estimation of global forest management patterns, enhancing previous methodologies and making the best use of data available. Next to having multiple applications, for example within global conservation planning or climate change mitigation analyses, it visualizes the currently available data on forest management on a global level.
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The circumboreal forest encompasses diverse landscape structures, dynamics and forest age distributions determined by their physical setting, and historical and current disturbance regimes. However, due to intensifying forest utilisation, and in certain areas due to increasing natural disturbances, boreal forest age-class structures have changed rapidly, so that the proportion of old forest has substantially declined, while that of young post-harvest and post-natural-disturbance forest proportions have increased. In the future, with a warming climate in certain boreal regions, this trend may further be enhanced due to an increase in natural disturbances and large-scale use of forest biomass to replace fossil-based fuels and products. The major drivers of change of forest age class distributions and structures include the use of clearcut short-rotation harvesting, more frequent and severe natural disturbances due to climate warming in certain regions. The decline in old forest area, and increase in managed young forest lacking natural post-disturbance structural legacies, represent a major transformation in the ecological conditions of the boreal forest beyond historical limits of variability. This may introduce a threat to biodiversity, ecosystem resilience and long-term adaptive capacity of the forest ecosystem. To safeguard boreal forest biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, and to maintain the multiple services provided to societies by this forest biome, it is pivotal to maintain an adequate share and the ecological qualities of young post-disturbance stages, along with mature forest stages with old-growth characteristics. This requires management for natural post-disturbance legacy structures, and innovative use of diverse uneven-aged and continuous cover management approaches to maintain critical late-successional forest structures in landscapes.
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As the terrestrial human footprint continues to expand, the amount of native forest that is free from significant damaging human activities is in precipitous decline. There is emerging evidence that the remaining intact forest supports an exceptional confluence of globally significant environmental values relative to degraded forests, including imperilled biodiversity, carbon sequestration and storage, water provision, indigenous culture and the maintenance of human health. Here we argue that maintaining and, where possible, restoring the integrity of dwindling intact forests is an urgent priority for current global efforts to halt the ongoing biodiversity crisis, slow rapid climate change and achieve sustainability goals. Retaining the integrity of intact forest ecosystems should be a central component of proactive global and national environmental strategies, alongside current efforts aimed at halting deforestation and promoting reforestation.
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8000 years ago, prior to Neolithic agriculture, Europe was mostly a wooded continent. Since then, its forest cover has been progressively fragmented, so that today it covers less than half of Europe's land area, in many cases having been cleared to make way for fields and pasture-land. Establishing the origin of Europe's current, more open land-cover mosaic requires a long-term perspective, for which pollen analysis offers a key tool. In this study we utilise and compare three numerical approaches to transforming pollen data into past forest cover, drawing on >1000 14C-dated site records. All reconstructions highlight the different histories of the mixed temperate and the northern boreal forests, with the former declining progressively since ~6000 years ago, linked to forest clearance for agriculture in later prehistory (especially in northwest Europe) and early historic times (e.g. in north central Europe). In contrast, extensive human impact on the needle-leaf forests of northern Europe only becomes detectable in the last two millennia and has left a larger area of forest in place. Forest loss has been a dominant feature of Europe's landscape ecology in the second half of the current interglacial, with consequences for carbon cycling, ecosystem functioning and biodiversity.
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Determining the drivers of shifting forest disturbance rates remains a pressing global change issue. Large-scale forest dynamics are commonly assumed to be climate driven, but appropriately scaled disturbance histories are rarely available to assess how disturbance legacies alter subsequent disturbance rates and the climate sensitivity of disturbance. We compiled multiple tree-ring based disturbance histories from primary Picea abies forest fragments distributed throughout five European landscapes spanning the Bohemian Forest and the Carpathian Mountains. The regional chronology includes 11 595 tree cores, with ring dates spanning the years 1750 to 2000, collected from 560 inventory plots in 37 stands distributed across a 1000 km geographic gradient, amounting to the largest disturbance chronology yet constructed in Europe. Decadal disturbance rates varied significantly through time and declined after 1920, resulting in widespread increases in canopy tree age. Approximately 75% of current canopy area recruited prior to 1900. Long-term disturbance patterns were compared to an historical drought reconstruction, and further linked to spatial variation in stand structure and contemporary disturbance patterns derived from LANDSAT imagery. Historically, decadal Palmer drought severity index minima corresponded with higher rates of canopy removal. The severity of contemporary disturbances increased with each stand's estimated time since last major disturbance, increased with mean diameter and declined with increasing within-stand structural variability. Reconstructed spatial patterns suggest that high small-scale structural variability has historically acted to reduce large-scale susceptibility and climate sensitivity of disturbance. Reduced disturbance rates since 1920, a potential legacy of high 19th century disturbance rates, have contributed to a recent region-wide increase in disturbance susceptibility. Increasingly common high-severity disturbances throughout primary Picea forests of Central Europe should be reinterpreted in light of both legacy effects (resulting in increased susceptibility) and climate change (resulting in increased exposure to extreme events). This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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In July 2016, the European Commission (EC) published a legislative proposal for incorporating greenhouse gas emissions and removals due to Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) into its 2030 Climate and Energy Framework. The Climate and Energy Framework aims at a total emission reduction of 40% by 2030 for all sectors together as part of the Paris Agreement. The LULUCF proposal regulates a “no debit” target for LULUCF (Forests and Agricultural soils), and regulates the accounting of any additional mitigation potential that might be expected of it. We find that the forest share of the LULUCF sector can achieve much more than what is in the regulation now. We elaborate a strategy for unlocking European Union (EU) forests and forest sector potential based on the concept of “climate smart forestry” (CSF). We find that to-date, European policy has not firmly integrated forest potential into the EU climate policy framework. Nor have climate objectives been firmly integrated into those of the forest and forest sector at either the EU or national level. Yet a wide range of measures can be applied to provide positive incentives for more firmly integrating these climate objectives into the forest and forest sector framework. With the right set of incentives in place at EU and Member States levels, we find the current literature supports the view that the EU has the potential to achieve an additional combined mitigation impact through CSF of 441 Mt CO2/year by 2050. In addition, CSF, through reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions, adapting and building forest resilience, and sustainably increasing forest productivity and incomes, tackles multiple policy goals.
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Identification of forest stands with priority for the conservation of biodiversity is of particular importance in landscapes with a long cultural and agricultural history, such as Central Europe. A group of species with a high indicator value for the naturalness of forest ecosystems are saproxylic insects. Some of these species, especially within the order Coleoptera, have been described as primeval forests relicts. Here, we compiled a list of 168 “primeval forest relict species” of saproxylic beetles based on expert knowledge. These species can serve as focal and umbrella species for forest conservation in Central Europe. They were selected because of their dependence on the continuous presence of primeval forest habitat features, such as over-mature trees, high amounts of dead wood, and dead wood diversity, as well as their absence in managed Central European forests. These primeval forest relict species showed a moderately strong clumping pattern within the phylogeny of beetles, as indicated by phylogenetic signal testing using the D-statistic. When we controlled for phylogenetic relatedness, an ordinal linear model revealed that large body size and preference for dead wood and trees of large diameter are the main characteristics of these species. This list of species can be used to identify forest stands of conservation value throughout Central Europe, to prioritize conservation and to raise public awareness for conservation issues related to primeval forests.
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European natural mountain Norway spruce (Picea abies) forests are currently subject to extensive disturbances. An improved understanding of the self-regulated regenerative capacity of this forest type is therefore needed. We used the last remnant of natural mountain Norway spruce forests in central northwestern Europe (BNF Brocken natural forest), to analyze (1) the diversity of structure and age distribution of the tree population and (2) the effect of disturbances on self-regulated tree regeneration over the last 264 years. To this end, we combined an assessment of stand structure with dendrochronological investigations and a review of disturbance history. We hypothesized that BNF exhibits a high diversity of tree ages and dimensions and that recruitment and survival of tree regeneration were largely independent from disturbances. BNF showed a high structural and age diversity. Disturbances exhibited no regular temporal pattern. Their effect on tree regeneration was rather complex and changed with observation period. Impeding and facilitating effects of past disturbances on recruitment were significant from 1736 to 1910. From 1911 until 2000, recruitment decoupled from preceding disturbances. Subsequent disturbances facilitated survival of established trees from 1736 to 1820, while afterward no significant influence could be proved. Our study showed that in the course of self-regulated development the tree population of BNF has gradually acquired, or maintained, a diverse structure. Disturbances served as an important driver of diversification. We concluded that increasing deadwood availability and limiting browsing are the key to securing immediate regeneration.
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Biodiversity not only responds to environmental change, but has been shown to be one of the key drivers of ecosystem function and service delivery. Forest soil biodiversity is also governed by these principles, the structure of soil biological communities is clearly determined by spatial, temporal and hierarchical factors. Global environmental change, together with land-use change and forest ecosystem management, impacts the aboveground structure and composition of European forests. Due to the close link between the above- and belowground parts of forest ecosystems, we know that soil biodiversity is also impacted. However, very little is known about the nature of these impacts; effects they have on the overall level of biodiversity, the functions it fulfills, and on the future stability of forests and forest soils. Even though much remains to be learned about the relationships between soil biodiversity and forest ecosystem functionality, it is clear that better effort needs to be made to preserve existing soil biodiversity and forest conservation strategies taking soils into account must be considered.
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Habitat loss and fragmentation can negatively impact the persistence of dispersal-limited lichen species with narrow niches. Rapid change in microclimate due to canopy dieback exposes species to additional stressors that may limit their capacity to survive and colonize. We studied the importance of old trees as micro-refuges and microclimate stability in maintaining lichen survival and diversity. The study was situated in mountain Norway spruce (Picea abies) forests of the Gorgany Mountains of the Ukrainian Carpathian mountain belt. Lichens were collected on 13 circular study plots (1000 m²). Dendrochronological methods were used to reconstruct age structure and maximum disturbance event history. A linear mixed effects model and general additive models were used to explain patterns and variability of lichens based on stand age and disturbance history for each plot. Tree age was the strongest variable influencing lichen diversity and composition. Recent (<80 years ago) severely disturbed plots were colonized only by the most common species, however, old trees (>200 years old) that survived the disturbances served as microrefuges for the habitat-specialized and/or dispersal limited species, thus epiphytic lichen biodiversity was markedly higher on those plots in comparison to plots without any old trees. Most species were able to survive microclimatic change after disturbances, or recolonize disturbed patches from surrounding old-growth forests. We concluded that the survival of old trees after disturbances could maintain and/or recover large portions of epiphytic lichen biodiversity even in altered microclimates.
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Under the coordination of The Ministry of Environment, Waters and Forests, about 24000 ha of primeval beech forests located in 8 natural protected area from the Romanian Carpathians were included for inscription into the World Heritage List to extend the „Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany” (1133bis). The extended World Heritage property is proposed to carry the joint new name: „Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe”. Supported by 13 European countries (Romania included), the nomination proposes to establish a transnational serial UNESCO property, with a surface of more that 95000 ha, that reunites the most representative and well preserved beech forests from the natural areal of this species in order to illustrate the ecological process of extension - that is in progress at present - of beech on the European continent. The process of choosing these canditate sites was thought for completing the existent sites and for providing arguments and reflecting better on the extension of species distribution at the level of Europe. At the end of January 2016, Austria, the coordinator country of the nomination process at the international level transmitted the common dossier for the nomination to the committee of evaluation of UNESCO World Heritage List.
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ContextDistribution and connectivity of suitable habitat for species of conservation concern is critical for effective conservation planning. Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), an umbrella species for biodiversity conservation, is increasingly threatened because of habitat loss and fragmentation. Objective We assessed the impact of drastic changes in forest management in the Carpathian Mountains, a major stronghold of capercaillie in Europe, on habitat distribution and connectivity. Methods We used field data surveys with a forest disturbance dataset for 1985–2010 to map habitat suitability, and we used graph theory to analyse habitat connectivity. ResultsClimate, topography, forest proportion and fragmentation, and the distance to roads and settlements best identified capercaillie presence. Suitable habitat area was 7510 km2 in 1985; by 2010, clear-cutting had reduced that area by 1110 km2. More suitable habitat was lost inside protected areas (571 km2) than outside (413 km2). Habitat loss of 15 % reduced functional connectivity by 33 % since 1985. Conclusions Forest management, particularly large-scale clear-cutting and salvage logging, have substantially diminished and fragmented suitable capercaillie habitat, regardless of the status of forest protection. Consequently, larger areas with suitable habitat are now isolated and many patches are too small to sustain viable populations. Given that protection of capercaillie habitat would benefit many other species, including old-growth specialists and large carnivores, conservation actions to halt the loss of capercaillie habitat is urgently needed. We recommend adopting policies to protect natural forests, limiting large-scale clear-cutting and salvage logging, implementing ecological forestry, and restricting road building to reduce forest fragmentation.
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Afforestation and forest management are considered to be key instruments in mitigating climate change. Here we show that since 1750, in spite of considerable afforestation, wood extraction has led to Europe’s forests accumulating a carbon debt of 3.1 petagrams of carbon. We found that afforestation is responsible for an increase of 0.12 watts per square meter in the radiative imbalance at the top of the atmosphere, whereas an increase of 0.12 kelvin in summertime atmospheric boundary layer temperature was mainly caused by species conversion. Thus, two and a half centuries of forest management in Europe have not cooled the climate. The political imperative to mitigate climate change through afforestation and forest management therefore risks failure, unless it is recognized that not all forestry contributes to climate change mitigation.
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Environmental conditions such as climate, topography, and soil conditions had an impact on prehistoric settlement strategies. By studying changes in settlement structure in the Nitra, Hron and Ipel' valleys in southern Slovakia over the course of the Neolithic and Eneolithic, preferences for various climatic and topographic environments in different periods can be seen. Besides cultural and socio-economic factors, it can also be expected that changes in climate contributed to change in settlement patterns. Climatic changes in Neolithic and Eneolithic have been identified and correlated with major changes in socio-economic structure, as well as with known climate fluctuations in the North Atlantic area.
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We conducted an analysis of global forest cover to reveal that 70% of remaining forest is within 1 km of the forest’s edge, subject to the degrading effects of fragmentation. A synthesis of fragmentation experiments spanning multiple biomes and scales, five continents, and 35 years demonstrates that habitat fragmentation reduces biodiversity by 13 to 75% and impairs key ecosystem functions by decreasing biomass and altering nutrient cycles. Effects are greatest in the smallest and most isolated fragments, and they magnify with the passage of time. These findings indicate an urgent need for conservation and restoration measures to improve landscape connectivity, which will reduce extinction rates and help maintain ecosystem services.
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We identify policies that would provide a solid foundation in key international negotiations to ensure that primary forests persist into the 21st Century. A novel compilation of primary forest cover and other data revealed that protection of primary forests is a matter of global concern being equally distributed between developed and developing countries. Almost all (98%) of primary forest is found within 25 countries with around half in five developed ones (USA, Canada, Russia, Australia and NZ). Only ∼ 22% of primary forest is found in IUCN Protected Areas Categories I-VI, which is approximately 5% of pre-agriculture natural forest cover. Rates of deforestation and forest degradation are rapid and extensive, and the long-term integrity of primary forest cannot be assumed. We recommend four new actions that could be included in climate change, biodiversity, and sustainable development negotiations: (1) Recognize primary forests as a matter of global concern within international negotiations; (2) Incorporate primary forests into environmental accounting; (3) Prioritize the principle of avoided loss; and (4) Universally accept the important role of indigenous and community conserved areas. In the absence of specific policies for primary forest protection, their unique biodiversity values and ecosystem services will continue to erode.This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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Questions: How have the historical frequency and severity of natural disturbances in primary Picea abies forests varied at the forest stand and landscape level during recent centuries? Is there a relationship between physiographic attributes and historical patterns of disturbance severity in this system? Location: Primary P. abies forests of the Eastern Carpathian Mountains, Romania; a region thought to hold the largest concentration of primary P. abies forests in Europe’s temperate zone. Methods: We used dendrochronological methods applied to many plots over a large area (132 plots representing six stands in two landscapes), thereby providing information at both stand and landscape levels. Evidence of past canopy disturbance was derived from two patterns of radial growth: (1) abrupt, sustained increases in growth (releases) and (2) rapid early growth rates (gap recruitment). Thesemethods were augmented with non-metricmultidimensional scaling to facilitate the interpretation of factors influencing past disturbance. Results: Of the two growth pattern criteria used to assess past disturbance, gap recruitment was the most common, representing 80% of disturbance evidence overall. Disturbance severities varied over the landscape, including stand-replacing events, as well as low- and intermediate-severity disturbances. More than half of the study plots experienced extreme-severity disturbances at the plot level, although they were not always synchronized across stands and landscapes. Plots indicating high-severity disturbances were often spatially clustered (indicating disturbances up to 20 ha), while this tendency was less clear for lowand moderate-severity disturbances. Physiographic attributes such as altitude and land form were only weakly correlated with disturbance severity. Historical documents suggest windstorms as the primary disturbance agent, while the role of bark beetles (Ips typographus) remains unclear. Conclusions: The historical disturbance regime revealed in this multi-scale study is characterized by considerable spatial and temporal heterogeneity,which could be seen among plots within stands, among stands within landscapes and between the two landscapes. When the disturbance regime was evaluated at these larger scales, the entire range of disturbance severity was revealed within this landscape.
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Quantification of global forest change has been lacking despite the recognized importance of forest ecosystem services. In this study, Earth observation satellite data were used to map global forest loss (2.3 million square kilometers) and gain (0.8 million square kilometers) from 2000 to 2012 at a spatial resolution of 30 meters. The tropics were the only climate domain to exhibit a trend, with forest loss increasing by 2101 square kilometers per year. Brazil's well-documented reduction in deforestation was offset by increasing forest loss in Indonesia, Malaysia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Zambia, Angola, and elsewhere. Intensive forestry practiced within subtropical forests resulted in the highest rates of forest change globally. Boreal forest loss due largely to fire and forestry was second to that in the tropics in absolute and proportional terms. These results depict a globally consistent and locally relevant record of forest change.
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Heavy natural disturbance in large protected areas of former commercial forests increasingly evokes European parliaments to call for management intervention because a loss of habitats and species is feared. In contrast, natural early successional habitats have recently been recognised as important for conservation. Current knowledge in this field mostly results from studies dealing only with selected taxa. Here we analyse the success of species across 24 lineages of three kingdoms in the Bavarian Forest National Park (Germany) after 15 years of a European spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus L.) outbreak that led to rapid canopy opening. Using indicator species analysis, we found 257 species with a significant preference for open forests and 149 species with a preference for closed forests, but only 82 species with a preference for the stand conditions transitional between open and closed forests. The large number of species with a preference for open forests across lineages supports the role of this bark beetle as a keystone species for a broad array of species. The slowdown of the outbreak after 15 years in the core zone of the national park resulted in less than half of the area being affected, due to variability in stand ages and tree species mixtures. Our case study is representative of the tree species composition and size of many large protected montane areas in Central European countries and illustrates that (1) natural disturbances increase biodiversity in formerly managed forests and (2) a montane protected area spanning 10,000 ha of low range mountains is likely sufficient to allow natural disturbances without a biased loss of closed-forest species.
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"An important contribution to the burgeoning literature extolling the virtues of forest complexity. As a compendium of the literature on forest heterogeneity alone, this book is an indispensable reference for scholars and practitioners of ecological forest management." Gregory H. Aplet, Senior Science Director, The Wilderness Society "Ecology and Recovery of Eastern Old-Growth Forests is extremely timely and hugely important. Old-growth forests are quickly disappearing, and global changes mandate that we find new approaches to manage them. Succinctly written by prominent American and Canadian scientists, this book is a must-read for forest professionals and enthusiastic forest lovers everywhere." Christian Messier, Professor of Forest Ecology, Université du Québec à Montréal and Université du Québec en Outaouais "Finally, a much-needed, up-to-date treatise on the state of old-growth forests in the East. All forest stakeholders should read this book." Jerry F. Franklin, Professor Emeritus, University of Washington
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Old growth—the term evokes something deeply rooted in the human psyche. We imagine the forest primeval, something timeless from our distant collective memory or perhaps nostalgia for what we imagine might once have been. Maybe we long for a time when life was less complicated, when the trappings of modern civilization were not so pervasive. There is the romanticism of the precolonial landscape “in which a squirrel could travel tree-to-tree from Georgia to Maine without ever touching the ground,” a legend that somehow manages to leave out millions of indigenous peoples who influenced that landscape for millennia (Mann 2006). We ground this image in reassuring ideas like “equilibrium dynamics,” in which primary or “virgin” forests are envisioned as stable and unchanging for centuries and natural disturbances are unfortunate events external to the system. Inputs equal outputs, everything in perfect balance.
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