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Research article2012Peer reviewedOpen access

How Forest Management affects Ecosystem Services, including Timber Production and Economic Return: Synergies and Trade-Offs

Duncker, Philipp; Raulund-Rasmussen, Karsten; Gundersen, Per; Katzensteiner, K; De Jong, Johnny; Ravn, Hans Peter; Smith, Mike; Eckmüllner, Otto; Spiecker, Heinrich


Forest ecosystems deliver multiple goods and services and, traditionally, forest owners tend to have a high interest in goods in the form of merchantable wood. As a consequence, forest management often aims to increase timber production and economic returns through intervention into natural processes. However, forests provide further services, including carbon sequestration, water quantity and quality, and preservation of biodiversity. In order to develop and implement strategies for sustainable forest management, it is important to anticipate the long-term effects of different forest management alternatives on the ability of the forest to provide ecosystem goods and services. Management objectives might emphasize economic interests at the expense of other services. Very few attempts have been made to illustrate and evaluate quantitatively the relationship between forest goods and services. By use of virtual but realistic datasets, we quantified, for multiple services, the effects of five forest management alternatives that form an intensity gradient. Our virtual forest management units represented Central European forest ecosystems in the submontane vegetation zone under a humid-temperate climate with acidic soils. In this zone the European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) is the dominant tree species. In order to assess the effects on ecosystem services, the untouched natural forest reserve served as a reference. Wherever possible, response functions were deduced to couple the various services via stand-level data to demonstrate trade-offs between the services. Management units comprised all development phases in the sense of a "normal forest". It was clearly illustrated that maximizing the rates of biomass production and carbon sequestration may conflict with protection of authentic biodiversity. Several silvicultural operations may, however, have positive effects on biodiversity and water protection without high costs. We also illustrated that water quality and maintenance of soil fertility may be affected either positively or negatively by several forest management operations. In contrast, water quantity was only minimally influenced by forest management. For the virtual forest in a humid climate, differences of 70 mm/yr in runoff were negligible. Under dry continental conditions, however, such differences may have important implications for groundwater formation.


alternative forest management strategies; biodiversity; carbon sequestration; forest ecosystem services; forest productivity; soil fertility; timber production; water quantity

Published in

Ecology and Society
2012, Volume: 17, number: 4, article number: 50

    Associated SLU-program

    SLU Swedish Biodiversity Centre

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG12 Responsible consumption and production
    SDG13 Climate action

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Management
    Forest Science

    Publication identifier


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