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Management, biodiversity and patterns of change in Mediterranean forest landscapes
Year:2008
Research Areas
  • Agriculture
Information
Abstract
Mediterranean forest landscapes are complex, heterogeneous and host a great vegetation diversity. They have been strongly transformed by human activity for centuries, with most of the present forests being considerably young. Water availability is the main limiting factor for forest growth. Wildfires are major disturbances configuring forest landscapes, with more than 0.5 million hectares burnt annually throughout the Mediterranean, and with fire occurrence increasing in recent years, particularly in the form of large wildfires. The European Mediterranean region has experimented large-scale socioeconomic changes in the last decades, with a strong rural population decline and land abandonment processes that have reduced forestry activities and have favoured the spread of forest and boosted the trend from open woodlands to dense forests with increasing naturalization, maturation and biomass accumulation. On the other hand, Mediterranean forests are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which are predicted to be particularly severe in this region. We illustrate the current situation and management of Mediterranean forest landscapes and the actual and foreseen patterns of change with data from the region of Catalonia (NE Spain), with a total area of 32,000 km2 (40% covered by forests), representative of the conditions existing throughout most of the European Mediterranean Basin. We use data from about eight thousand permanent plots of the Spanish National Forest Inventories, land use maps, fire occurrence statistics and the Catalan Breeding Bird Atlases, since forest birds are good indicators of forest biodiversity related with forest habitat characteristics at different spatial scales. We show that the extent and diversity of Mediterranean forests have increased in the last 20 years and that most of the forest birds expanded their distributions mainly as a consequence of forest maturation but also due to forest spread. However, the lack of management in many forests might cause an excessive homogenization and densification of the forest landscape, increasing the risk of large wildfires, hampering an adequate transition to more develop forest stages, and impeding the establishment of a variety of forest species and patches. We show that a moderate-intensity management has positive effects on the diversity of forest birds and plants. Forest fires have a large impact on local biodiversity patterns but do not seem to affect negatively those patterns at the landscape scale. Traditionally forest management has only been conceived at the stand and single-forest scale, mainly because of the small size (25 to 75 ha in average) of the dominant private ownerships in Catalonia. However, the changing context imposes new challenges for forest management that requires from a landscape perspective to develop successful strategies to ensure the sustainability of forest ecosystem services and to mitigate the effects of climate and socioeconomic change. The recently passed Spanish Forest Law has created a new type of official forest plans (PORF) specifically focusing on landscape scale management and the public administration is boosting the association of forest ownerships into integrated planning at larger scales linked in part to forest certification systems. Therefore there is an incipient but rapid shift in the paradigm from the regulated high forest and the primacy of timber production as a management objective (as inspired from Central European traditional forestry), to an adaptive and landscape-scale management with a larger focus on biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services, as well as in other non-timber products (cork, pine nuts, mushrooms, black truffle, game) with increasing social and market demands that are as well more compatible with a more multifunctional and sustainable use of forest resources
International
Si
Entity
IUFRO
Place
China
Pages
Reference/URL
no consta
Publication type
Otras conferencias
Participants
  • Participante: ASSUN GIL-TENA (Universidad de Lérida)
  • Participante: LUCIA BROTONS (Universidad de Lérida)
  • Autor: Santiago Fulgencio Saura Martinez de Toda (UPM)
  • Participante: OLGA TORRAS (Universidad de Lérida)
Research Group, Departaments and Institutes related
  • Creador: Grupo de Investigación: Economía y Sostenibilidad del Medio Natural
  • Departamento: Economía y Gestión Forestal
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