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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2010

Models for supporting forest management in a changing environment

Fontes, L.; Bontemps, J. -D.; Bugmann, H.; Van Oijen, M.; Gracia, C.; Kramer, K.; Lindner, M.; Roetzer, T.; Skovsgaard, J. P.


Forests are experiencing an environment that changes much faster than during the past several hundred years. In addition, the abiotic factors determining forest dynamics vary depending on its location. Forest modeling thus faces the new challenge of supporting forest management in the context of environmental change. This review focuses on three types of models that are used in forest management: empirical (EM), process-based (PBM) and hybrid models. Recent approaches may lead to the applicability of empirical models under changing environmental conditions, such as (i) the dynamic state-space approach, or (ii) the development of productivity-environment relationships. Twenty-five process-based models in use in Europe were analyzed in terms of their structure, inputs and outputs having in mind a forest management perspective. Two paths for hybrid modeling were distinguished: (i) coupling of EMs and PBMs by developing signal-transfer environment-productivity functions; (ii) hybrid models with causal structure including both empirical and mechanistic components. Several gaps of knowledge were identified for the three types of models reviewed.The strengths and weaknesses of the three model types differ and all are likely to remain in use. There is a trade-off between how little data the models need for calibration and simulation purposes, and the variety of input-output relationships that they can quantify. PBMs are the most versatile, with a wide range of environmental conditions and output variables they can account for. However, PBMs require more data making them less applicable whenever data for calibration are scarce. EMs, on the other hand, are easier to run as they require much less prior information, but the aggregated representation of environmental effects makes them less reliable in the context of environmental changes. The different disadvantages of PBMs and EMs suggest that hybrid models may be a good compromise, but a more extensive testing of these models in practice is required.


climate change; empirical models; process-based models; mixed models

Published in

Agroforestry Systems
2010, volume: 19, number: Supplement 1, pages: 8-29
Publisher: Springer Verlag (Germany)

Authors' information

Fontes, Luís
Technical University of Lisbon
Bontemps, Jean-Daniel
ParisTech, Paris Institute of Technology
Bugmann, Harald
Van Oijen, Marcel
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH)
Gracia, Carlos
University of Barcelona
Kramer, Koen
Wageningen University & Research Centre (Wageningen UR)
Lindner, Marcus
Rötzer, Thomas
Technical University of Munich (TUM)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
Forest Science

Publication Identifiers


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