Research

Environmental Services (ES)

The MCPFE process (Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe, now Forest Europe) and the concept of sustainable forest management (SFM) emphasize the research focus on ES, which society now recognizes and demands from the forest sector, and which may become a future source of income to forest owners. The anticipation for SFM was recently further substantiated for the Nordic countries by the Selfoss Declaration. The CAR- ES aims to provide the necessary knowledge for informed decisions on forest management with respect to the ES, thus we will improve the knowledge for each of the service disciplines as well as on how to compare different services.

  • C- sequestration
  • Water protection
  • Biodiversity
  • Soil quality

 

 

C sequestration (led by Per Gundersen)

The forest ecosystem stores large amounts of carbon in the biomass of trees and in the soil. Following the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol there has been increasing focus on possibilities to sequester more carbon in biological systems. The forest management effect on biomass stores of C through changes in the standing stock of wood is relatively well described, whereas the effects on soil C are largely unknown. A new Nordic network “Forest Soil C Sink” led by the CAR-ES coordinator and with a partial overlap of partner has just been funded by NordForsk. This network focuses on the size of the soil C sink and the effect of management options (harvest intensity, drainage regime, tree species etc.) on this. The impact of external factors such as N deposition is an important issue dealt with in the network. The soil exchange of other greenhouse gasses such as methane and nitrous oxide will be considered as well.

 

Water protection (led by Eva Ring)

Forests play an essential role in the protection and maintenance of water resources, as described in the MCPFE’s Warsaw Resolution 2. Also, the EU Water Framework Directive stresses the importance of water quality and quantity. Forests filter pollutants from rainwater and dampen the flow of water through the landscape. In general, surface water and groundwater in forest areas are considered being of high quality. Forest management practices, such as harvest, fertilization, species changes, and drainage, affect the quality and quantity of water that enters streams, rivers, lakes and groundwater (Ring et al. 2008a,b). It is important to conduct forestry so that the water protection functions of forests are maintained. Furthermore, pressures like air pollution, climate change and abandonment/afforestation also interact on quality and quantity of water from forests. We will consider issues like acidification, eutrophication, erosion, leaching of dissolved organic matter as well as water quantity issues, related to forest management and external
pressures.

 

Biodiversity (led by Magne Sætersdal)

The Nordic forests are a home for at least 25000 species of animals and plants. Efforts to preserve the biodiversity fall into two categories. One is to incorporate conservation actions into the management and planning of forest production units (e.g. forest enterprises in Sweden used 10% of the forest volume for conservation purposes). The other is to establish forest reserves. This emphasis on the areas outside reserves is unusual in an international context and is developed most fully in the Nordic countries. It is important to evaluate the effects on biodiversity in relation to the effects on forestry’s economy as well as on other ES, of the Nordic conservation strategy. In particular, measures during harvest operations and silvicultural treatments aiming to provide stands with old trees and coarse dead wood across the rotation period is a crucial issue that should be compared to the strategy of establishing nature reserves both from biological and economic viewpoints. Increased harvesting for bioenergy may reduce the ability to provide old trees and dead wood. Dead and decaying wood is vital for forest biodiversity.
However, no studies have compared the relative success of the two conservation strategies with respect to preserving the diversity of dead wood qualities, such as tree species, dead wood dimensions, and decay stages in different ecological settings. Disruption of canopy closure is another major effect of cutting. Some ground organisms (e.g. among plants, mycorrhiza, invertebrates) are hypothesized to be severely affected by clear felling but may tolerate selective cutting.

 

Soil Quality (led by Karsten Raulund-Rasmussen)

The soil provides nutrients and water to support growth and health of the vegetation, and it support anchoring. The vegetation and its roots prevent the soil from eroding. Good soil quality is a prerequisite for wood production and the provisions of ES like carbon sequestration, biodiversity and water quality. The demand for forest products, like timber and pulp wood, and especially biomass for energy, is expected to increase significantly in the near future, and this has led and will lead to intensified forest management with mechanized operations, short rotations, artificial ditching, soil scarification, fertilization, weed control, selection of more productive species, and tree breeding for higher growth. In the past few decades, the harvesting of residual woody parts for energy has also increased
in several countries. These practices affect soil quality and it is a challenge to assess just in what way and especially how much. Most likely soil quality indicators to be influenced will be store of nutrients, soil acidity and aeration which is sensitive to compaction following use of heavy machines.

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