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Integrative management to sustain biodiversity and ecological continuity in Central European temperate oak (Quercus robur, Q. petraea) forests: An overview

Mölder, Andreas, Meyer, Peter, Nagel, Ralf-Volker
Forest ecology and management 2019 v.437 pp. 324-339
Quercus petraea, Quercus robur, biodiversity, biodiversity conservation, canopy gaps, ecological value, economic sustainability, forest management, forests, niches, shade, solar radiation, woodlands
Central European temperate oak woodlands are highly valued for their rich biodiversity. They are also of great economic importance and forest management aims to produce high quality timber, which demands high investments. The aim of this literature review is to identify management options for forestry and nature conservation that sustain both the ecological value of oak forests and the economic viability of oak silviculture.We addressed three main questions: (a) Oaks and close-to-nature forestry – what are the key silvicultural challenges and options?, (b) What is the particular significance of ecological continuity and which structural features are of importance for biodiversity conservation in oak forests?, (c) What are the key elements and possible strategies of forest management that sustain the ecological values in oak forests in combination with viable forestry?Light availability appeared to be a conspicuous link connecting the conservation and the silvicultural aspects of multifunctional oak forest management: Both young oak trees and multiple oak woodland specialist species are characterized by their need for increased sunlight exposure. This common denominator provides a sound basis for integrative management practices for forestry and nature conservation. The concept of retention forestry offers purposeful approaches. So the harvest of valuable timber oaks or the creation of canopy gaps for oak regeneration can be used to release the crowns and trunks of habitat oaks from shading and competition. When looking at the management of oak woodland biodiversity hotspots, the re-establishment of (modified) historical forest management techniques, which increase stand openness and create transitional habitats that provide suitable oak regeneration niches, seems to be necessary.Not only the continuity of oak woodland cover and natural site conditions, but also the uninterrupted temporal continuity and availability of wood-related structural features turned out to be of particular importance for oak woodland specialist species. We identified an urgent need for systematic forest planning approaches that secure the long-term availability of these structural features within areas or “sustainability units” that are large enough to maintain viable populations of oak woodland specialist species. In particular, conservation-oriented forestry measures should mainly be implemented in those areas, where the greatest effectiveness is to be expected. In the sustainability units, oak regeneration measures ought to take place either in close vicinity to old oak stands or directly in these stands. The choice of one of these options should be based on a careful consideration of the needs and possibilities of both silvicultural and nature conservation management.