Friday, March 7, 2014

Forest biodiversity

Lesser spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor)
Production of marketed commodities and protection of biodiversity in natural systems are unfortunately very often in disagreement. Humanity is continuously expanding and so does the need for more goods and natural resources. On the other hand the conditions of our global ecosystems urgently call for strategies to resolve the conflict between production and protection.

Forest management is generally based on recommendations that are supposed to maximize economic revenues. However, in 40% of cases a better economic result would be achieved by neglecting some of the recommendations as a new study showed. This would also greatly benefit biodiversity.

Researchers from Finland studied a production forest landscape encompassing 68 square kilometers of land and more than 30,000 forest stands in Central Finland. Thy were interested in the potential of a forest landscape to simultaneously provide habitats for species and produce economic returns. More and more forest-owners become interested in not only earn money in the lumber trade but simultaneously retaining recreational values and habitats for species. This is the result of a change in humans's perception. People start paying attention to a variety of goods and benefits they may get from forests. For example, forests capture and store carbon from the atmosphere and thereby counteract climate change caused by human carbon emissions. 

The study shows that it is important to reconcile alternative uses of forests as they are not necessarily in a very strong conflict. Simultaneous consideration and optimization among alternative objectives can be beneficial. In the study, researchers of biological and environmental science collaborated with information technology researchers which work in the field of multi-objective decision making. The team projected forest growth 50 years into the future with alternative management regimes. The management regimes were compared from the point of view of six forest species - capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), hazel grouse (Tetrastes bonasia), flying squirrel (Pteromyini), long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus) and two woodpecker species (Dendrocopos minor, Picoides tridactylus). In addition habitats for six groups of dead-wood dependent red-listed species were examined. 

The research aimed at finding economical ways to maintain species habitats in a forest landscape and to reveal an optimal combination of management regimes that would maximize the habitat availability at a given level of economic returns. Small additional investments into biodiversity may yield large benefits. For example, increasing habitat availability for the capercaillie is relatively inexpensive but would go a long way. Providing dead-wood associated species with more habitats tends to be more expensive because it involve requires the reduction of harvest. A more economical measure could be the stop of silviculture thinning practices which would improve habitats for numerous species in production forests. Thinning is a method that arti´Čücially reduces the number of trees growing in a stand with the aim of hastening the development of the remainder.

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