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Can current management maintain forest landscape multifunctionality in the Eastern Alps in Austria under climate change?
- Irauschek, Florian, Rammer, Werner, Lexer, Manfred J.
- Regional environmental change 2017 v.17 no.1 pp. 33-48
- Picus, bark beetles, birds, browsing, canopy gaps, carbon sequestration, case studies, climate, climate change, ecosystem services, forests, habitats, landscapes, managers, natural resources conservation, simulation models, snags, temperature, tree age, trees, uneven-aged management, ungulates, watersheds, Alps region, Austria, Central European region
- In Central Europe, management of forests for multiple ecosystem services (ES) has a long tradition and is currently drawing much attention due to increasing interest in non-timber services. In face of a changing climate and diverse ES portfolios, a key issue for forest managers is to assess vulnerability of ES provisioning. In a case study catchment of 250 ha in the Eastern Alps, the currently practiced uneven-aged management regime (BAU; business as usual) which is based on irregularly shaped patch cuts along skyline corridors was analysed under historic climate (represented by the period 1961–1990) and five transient climate change scenarios (period 2010–2110) and compared to an unmanaged scenario (NOM). The study addressed (1) the future provisioning of timber, carbon sequestration, protection against gravitational hazards, and nature conservation values under BAU management, (2) the effect of spatial scale (1, 5, 10 ha grain size) in mapping ES indicators and (3) how the spatial scale of ES assessment affects the simultaneous provision of several ES (i.e. multifunctionality). The analysis employed the PICUS forest simulation model in combination with novel landscape assessment tools. In BAU management, timber harvests were smaller than periodic increments. The resulting increase in standing stock benefitted carbon sequestration. In four out of five climate change scenarios, volume increment was increasing. With the exception of the mildest climate change scenario (+2.6 °C, no change in precipitation), all other analysed climate change scenarios reduced standing tree volume, carbon pools and number of large old trees, and increased standing deadwood volume due to an intensifying bark beetle disturbance regime. However, increases in deadwood and patchy canopy openings benefitted bird habitat quality. Under historic climate, the NOM regime showed better performance in all non-timber ES. Under climate change conditions, the damages from bark beetle disturbances increased more in NOM compared with BAU. Despite favourable temperature conditions in climate change scenarios, the share of admixed broadleaved species was not increasing in BAU management, mainly due to the heavy browsing pressure by ungulates. In NOM, it even decreased and mean tree age increased. Thus, in the long run NOM may enter a phase of lower resilience compared with BAU. Most ES indicators were fairly insensitive to the spatial scale of indicator mapping. ES indicators that were based on sparse tree and stand attributes such as rare admixed tree species, large snags and live trees achieved better results when mapped at larger scales. The share of landscape area with simultaneous provisioning of ES at reasonable performance levels (i.e. multifunctionality) decreased with increasing number of considered ES, while it increased with increasing spatial scale of the assessment. In the case study, landscape between 53 and 100 % was classified as multifunctional, depending on number and combinations of ES.