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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Natural disturbance regimes as a guide for sustainable forest management in Europe

Aszalos, Reka; Thom, Dominik; Aakala, Tuomas; Angelstam, Per; Brumelis, Guntis; Galhidy, Laszlo; Gratzer, Georg; Hlasny, Tomas; Katzensteiner, Klaus; Kovacs, Bence; Knoke, Thomas; Larrieu, Laurent; Motta, Renzo; Mueller, Joerg; Odor, Peter; Rozenbergar, Dusan; Paillet, Yoan; Pitar, Diana; Standovar, Tibor; Svoboda, Miroslav;
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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 toward 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 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 NDS with more conventional practices.


clearcut; close-to-nature forestry; deadwood; emulation of natural dynamics; even-aged; forest management; natural disturbance; natural dynamics silviculture; residual structure; retention; severity; uneven-aged

Published in

Ecological Applications
2022, volume: 32, number: 5, article number: e2596
Publisher: WILEY

Authors' information

Aszalos, Reka
Hungarian Centre for Ecological Research
Thom, Dominik
Technical University of Munich
Thom, Dominik
University of Vermont
Thom, Dominik
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
Aakala, Tuomas
University of Eastern Finland
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, School for Forest Management
Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences
Brumelis, Guntis
University of Latvia
Gratzer, Georg
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
Hlasny, Tomas
Czech University of Life Sciences Prague
Katzensteiner, Klaus
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
Kovacs, Bence
Hungarian Centre for Ecological Research
Knoke, Thomas
Technical University of Munich
Larrieu, Laurent
Motta, Renzo
University of Turin
Mueller, Joerg
University of Wurzburg
Odor, Peter
Hungarian Centre for Ecological Research
Rozenbergar, Dusan
University of Ljubljana
Paillet, Yoan
Université Grenoble Alpes
Pitar, Diana
National Research and Development Institute in Forestry Marin Dracea
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Associated SLU-program

SLU Network Plant Protection

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land
SDG12 Responsible consumption and production

UK√Ą Subject classification

Forest Science

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