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North Fennoscandian mountain forests: History, composition, disturbance dynamics and the unpredictable future
- Kuuluvainen, Timo, Hofgaard, Annika, Aakala, Tuomas, Gunnar Jonsson, Bengt
- Forest ecology and management 2017 v.385 pp. 140-149
- Betula, Picea, altitude, biodiversity, climate change, ecosystem management, ecosystems, edaphic factors, humans, latitude, monitoring, montane forests, mountains, trees, wilderness, Finland, Norway, Russia, Scandinavia, Sweden
- North Fennoscandian mountain forests are distributed along the Scandes Mountains between Sweden and Norway, and the low-mountain regions of northern Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the adjacent northwestern Russia. Regionally, these forests are differentiated into spruce, pine or birch dominance due to climatic differences. Variation in tree species dominance within these regions is generally caused by a combination of historical and prevailing disturbance regimes, including both chronic and episodic disturbances, their magnitude and frequency, as well as differences in edaphic conditions and topography. Because of their remoteness, slow growth and restrictions of use, these mountain forests are generally less affected by human utilization than more productive and easily utilizable forests at lower elevations and/or latitudes. As a consequence, these northern forests of Europe are often referred to as “Europe’s last wilderness”, even if human influence of varying intensity has been ubiquitous through historical time. Because of their naturalness, the North Fennoscandian mountain forests are of paramount importance for biodiversity conservation, monitoring of ecosystem change and for their sociocultural values. As such, they also provide unique reference areas for basic and applied research, and for developing methods of forest conservation, restoration and ecosystem-based management for the entire Fennoscandia. However, the current rapid change in climate is predicted to profoundly affect the ecology and dynamics of these forests in the future.