Managing forests as functional complex networks

Although a variety of forest management approaches to cope with climate change have been proposed worldwide, what has been missing so far is a way to integrate them at appropriate scales, particularly at landscape level, and to put a primary focus on enhancing forest resilience in the Anthropocene.

I suppose that readers of the Resilience blog do not need a long introduction on the myriad of threats that the climatic and global changes pose to forest ecosystems. Mutating climate, drought, unexpected extreme disturbances, sudden shifts in socio-economic conditions but also forest fragmentation, pollution and new pest and diseases are making long-term forest planning more and more difficult. Scientists are still debating on the topic, but many are convinced that we entered in a new geological era: the Anthropocene. How can we therefore manage our forests so that they are more resilient to the high level of uncertainties that characterize this new era?

The symmetry of competition: does the battle take place above or below our feet?

In this article, I talk about the “mode of competition”, in other words whether trees of different species compete more of aboveground or belowground resources when growing in mixed stands. Additionally, I highlight the advantage of mixed forests in the context of climate change.

If you have read some of my articles like What factors determine whether tree species compete or complement each other?, you know how much I like mixed forests. Forests rich in tree species not only are known for providing higher levels of ecosystem services but also be prompter to cope with unexpected disturbances and climatic changes. However, the mechanisms of competitions in multi-species forests are all but clear. Scientists are still studying which combinations of tree species grow better in a particular environment or what factor promote or reduce a positive growth complementarity in secondary forests and/or plantations. In one of my latest posts on the blog Forest Monitor I have tried to explain in simple terms the concept of how complementarity for a give species can be positive or negative when growing in association with other species depending on resource availability.