Climate change is a major threat to forest ecosystems, altering water, carbon and nutrient cycles, and even triggering large-scale forest transformations. Ecosystem models are versatile tools allowing us to understand these processes and construct scenarios of future developments.
We study the dynamics of Central European forest ecosystems at two spatial scales: At the scale of forest stands, we are focusing on element cycles between atmosphere, trees and soil; and alterations of these cycles by management, climate change and other perturbations. At the scale of forest landscapes (thousands of hectares), we are focusing on large-scale forest dynamics, including impacts of wind and bark beetles and various transformations of forest landscapes. We use in our research different tools and data, including forest landscape and disturbance model iLand (http://iland.boku.ac.at/startpage) and model Biome-BGCMuSo (http://agromo.agrar.mta.hu/bbgc/).
Our research particularly aims to understand how forests and humans interact – this means, for example, how forest dynamics can be controlled by management and what drives the provision of forest ecosystem services.
Large forest areas in Europe are currently affected by forest disturbances, which are shifting forest demography and generate heterogeneous template of disturbance legacies. We strive to understand how resilient are such post-disturbance landscape to disturbances occurring in the coming decades. In the other words, we aim to understand how disturbance legacies alter future vulnerability and resilience of Central European forest landscapes.
Bark beetles are prominent disturbance agents in Europe and their outbreaks intensify under climate change. It is increasingly difficult to control the outbreaks by current management tools and a shift in management paradigm is needed. Our recent research aims to optimize the management of large-scale windthrows, which typically trigger the outbreaks, by focusing on a limited number of forest stands with the highest leverage on outbreak risk. Such a practice – if successful – can replace the large-scale uniform treatments and can better balance between multiple objectives, such as risk reduction, biodiversity conservation and economic profit.