By Jonas Simons and Bart Muys (KU Leuven)
Imagine you are responsible for a large, forested area in Europe. Will you manage it, or let nature run its course? If you decide to manage your forest, what would be the consequences? Would it store more carbon? Would it use its resources more efficiently, or produce more wood? What about biodiversity conservation? Would the unmanaged choice have more bird species? Another factor to consider is the frequency of disturbance events, such as fires and windstorms, which is increasing due to climate change. Since you will want to keep the resilience of your forest high, which management option would contribute better to this goal?
Unfortunately, current research answers these questions ambiguously. The relationships between the management of forests, provisioning of several ecosystem services and resilience to disturbances remain rather unclear. In addition, several of the ecosystem services we expect from forests have trade-offs between each other. The bottom line is: before deciding what to do with your forest, you should know your viable management options (including the decision to not manage), and which consequences different implementation options have on how your forest functions. In Work Package 2 (WP2) of INFORMA, led by KU Leuven, we will investigate this knowledge gap. To do so, we are developing the INFORMA Forest Management Platform: a new, large database that is specifically designed to answer management-related questions for European forests.