Forest management activities are largely focused on providing desirable forest ecosystem functions, e.g. wood production, biomass, biodiversity, economic, wildlife habitat, etc., through the provision of forest structure in the present and the future. Comprehensive understanding of natural disturbance regimes, stand development pathways, and their combined effects on structural aspects that provide for forest functions is critical because the heterogeneity of natural disturbances influences a variety of ecosystem properties and processes.
Forest ecosystems are dynamic; their composition and structure are in a state of continuum of disturbances in forests ranging from occasional death of canopy trees caused by pathogens, to widespread low severity mortality caused by drought or herbivory, or severe stand-replacing fires, blowdowns, or insect outbreaks, to name a few. Mixed severity disturbance regimes are comprised of single tree, moderate severity and infrequent stand-replacing disturbances, and are characterized by a variety of patch sizes.
Photos depict residual structure after differing disturbance intensities. A) Low severity disturbance; B) Intermediate severity disturbance; C) High severity disturbance; D) Landscape view of high severity disturbance.
The main aim of the project is to identify and classify multiple pathways of stand development following natural disturbances and the influence on forest ecosystem services. In particular, we will study the influence of the disturbance history on the forest structure, forest biomass, biodiversity, and resilience to forest disturbances. In addition, we will also evaluate C dynamics related to multiple pathways resultant from mixed severity disturbance regimes. The innovative aspect of the proposed project is the development of a conceptual model based on an extensive intensive sampling of forest structure and disturbance history combined with innovative methods and analyses to understand the drivers and dynamics of critical forest values as preserved in the forest resources of spruce and beech forests of Central and Eastern Europe.
Our hypothesis proposes that mixed severity disturbances will yield multiple variable developmental pathways that influence the forest ecosystem functions, and provide structural diversity.
We anticipate that based on the results of the proposed project, we will answer important questions concerning the effect of the mixed disturbance severity systems on the pathways of stand structure development and forest ecosystem services. One of the major advantages of the proposed project is the already established network of permanent research plots. To the best of our knowledge, a disturbance and stand structural development study of this extent has not been conducted in Central Europe. The results of the proposed project will be published in internationally recognized journals.
Long-term outcome for forest policy: A large scale test, by examining over time the effects of the disturbance on the forest ecosystem services. The results of this project will better inform science-based management and restoration decisions to sustain many ecosystem services (e.g. biodiversity conservation, C sequestration).