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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Representative boreal forest habitats in northern Europe, and a revised model for ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation

Berglund, Hakan; Kuuluvainen, Timo


The natural range of variation of ecosystems provides reference conditions for sustainable management and biodiversity conservation. We review how the understanding of natural reference conditions of boreal forests in northern Europe has changed from earlier perceptions of even-aged dynamics driven by stand-replacing disturbances towards current understanding highlighting the role of non-stand-replacing disturbances and the resultant complex forest dynamics and structures. We show how earlier views and conceptual models of forest disturbance dynamics, including the influential ASIO model, provide estimates of reference conditions that are outside the natural range of variation. Based on a research synthesis, we present a revised forest reference model incorporating the observed complexity of ecosystem dynamics and the prevalence of old forests. Finally, we outline a management model and demonstrate its use in forest ecosystem management and show how regional conservation area needs can be estimated. We conclude that attaining favourable conservation status in northern Europe's boreal forests requires increasing emphasis on ecosystem management and conservation for old forest characteristics.


Biodiversity conservation; Forest dynamics; Green infrastructure; Landscape management; Natural range of variation; Restoration; Sustainable forestry

Published in

AMBIO :: A Journal of the Human Environment
2021, Volume: 50, number: 5, pages: 1003-1017
Publisher: SPRINGER

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG15 Life on land

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