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Criteria to evaluate the conservation value of strictly protected forest reserves in Central Europe

Schultze, Juliane, Gärtner, Stefanie, Bauhus, Jürgen, Meyer, Peter, Reif, Albert
Biodiversity and conservation 2014 v.23 no.14 pp. 3519-3542
biodiversity, forest reserves, forests, habitats, politics, Central European region, Germany
A major goal of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is to improve the protection of biodiversity. One approach to meet this goal is the implementation of strictly protected forest reserves (SPFRs). Many countries have adopted this approach and set target values for SPFRs, for example Germany aims to set aside 5 % of the forest area by 2020 (BMU, Strategie zur Biologischen Vielfalt, 2007). The contribution of SPFRs to biodiversity conservation cannot be assessed without considering the quality or conservation value of these areas. One challenge lies in the selection of specific criteria to evaluate this contribution of existing SPFRs. For Central Europe we reviewed these specific evaluation criteria and their ecological theory and evidence underpinning their relevance for an assessment as well as the interrelations between criteria. In addition, we present a framework for the integration of these criteria into an evaluation process. To identify criteria typically used or recommended for the evaluation of SPFRs, we analyzed the international conventions and reviewed the scientific literature on biodiversity conservation, specifically on area selection, status assessment and gap analysis. Since nearly all criteria were interrelated and operate at different scales, we developed a coherent evaluation framework to integrate them. Within this framework the criteria cover the fundamental aspects: space (completeness and connectivity), time (habitat continuity and persistence), and function (naturalness, rarity/threat and representativeness). This approach, once it is complemented by indicators, may be used to evaluate the extent to which individual SPFRs as well as a system of SPFRs contribute to the protection of natural forest biodiversity at a national level. It may be particularly relevant for Central European countries with a similar ecological, historical and political context.