Silviculture and ecosystem management

The large majority of European forest ecosystems are managed. Historically, the aim of forest managers was to maximize timber production. Over the past decades, demands for other services and the protection of biodiversity have grown. Addressing these demands is challenged by an increasing global need for timber and biofuels. In addition, climate change and intensifying disturbance regimes are threatening the sustainable supply of ecosystem services. Autonomous forest adaptation processes such as changes in species composition require decades to centuries. A mismatch between environmental conditions and ecosystems could destabilize forests, potentially causing a rapid shift of ecosystems to an undesired state. Thus, there is an urgent need for robust forest management strategies that increase the resistance and resilience of forest ecosystems to climate change and increasing disturbance activity while providing multiple services and sustaining biodiversity. One of our primary goals is to identify locally adapted management options that guide forest development towards a desired state. Our approaches to assess management effects on forest ecosystems encompass field-based empirical studies, manipulation experiments as well as process-based simulation modeling.

Empirical studies

We assess the outcomes of different forest management strategies. In particular, we analyze how different management strategies are able to cope with the increasing complexity of environmental change and societal needs. This includes, for instance, the assessment of potential synergies and trade-offs among ecosystem services and biodiversity. Our research thus provides a quantitative foundation for important forest management decisions.

Experimental studies

Experiments are an important means to understand the responses of ecosystems to silvicultural treatments. Currently, we are (co-)supervising 12 experimental sites across Bavaria. The longest-running experiment we supervise was launched in 1976 in a mixed mountain forest. In addition to experiments in Bavaria we are involved in experimental studies across the globe.

Simulation studies

We use process-based simulation models to project future management impacts on forest ecosystems. We simulate management strategies under changing climate and disturbance regimes in order to identify management strategies that optimize not only provisioning, but also stability and resilience of ecosystem services. In addition, we use simulation models to address the conservation and connectivity of favorable habitats for forest-dwelling species. We also assess the effects of management on disturbance regimes in order to derive strategies for future disturbance risk mitigation.