Project description and objectives
Approximately half of the area of South Tyrol is covered by forest, which provides important ecosystem services. In addition to their protective function against avalanches, rockfalls and erosion, forests fix and store carbon, provide raw materials, and have an important recreational and cultural function. Finally, they play a key role in biodiversity conservation, providing habitats for many animal and plant species, which in turn help maintain the functions and processes of these complex ecosystems. Rapid climate change combined with inadequate past land management puts this complexity at risk with negative effects on biodiversity. For these reasons, monitoring forest ecosystems is crucial to understanding how global changes affect these systems and to understanding the potential role of management in preserving biodiversity and community services.
In this project, we analyze several forest habitat types. At all forest sites studied by the long-term project Biodiversity Monitoring South Tyrol, we collect information in a standardized way: qualitative attributes related to cover, forest category and management aspects, and quantitative characters such as the structure and composition of the tree species present, as well as dead wood, dendromicrohabitats – morphological characteristics of trees that constitute habitats for many species – and the biodiversity that inhabits them. The project aims to quantify the capacity of forest stands to accommodate species-specific diversity and how to foster it through active and sustainable management, thereby increasing their resilience to global change.
For each site, forest parameters are collected following the guidelines of the National Forest Inventory. At all sites we also apply the standard programs of the Biodiversity Monitoring South Tyrol. The main results of this project are a standardized protocol for monitoring forest sites and an up-to-date picture of sites that are representative of South Tyrol’s forest ecosystems in terms of species composition, structural characteristics, health status, and degree of management. The forest survey data combined with the Biodiversity Monitoring data will be integrated into a standardized multi-taxon data platform for European forests within the COST Action “Bottoms-UP”. This European cooperation project foresees (1) the creation of a continental database on forest biodiversity, (2) the elaboration of sustainable management indicators and (3) the drafting of management guidelines to be applied mainly in forest certification and protected areas. The results will be achieved on a European scale and our special project contributes to the inclusion of Alpine forests among European forest ecosystems.
The project is carried out in collaboration with the COST Action “Bottoms-UP” and the REINFORCE project of Eurac Research. We would also like to thank the Forest Planning Office of the Autonomous Province of South Tyrol.