Over the last decade regional and / or national research programmes regarding conversion and sustainable management of coniferous forests were launched ‑ and partly concluded ‑ in some European countries. Since there are many European countries with a considerable ratio of secondary coniferous forests and/or where conversion is recognized as a challenge, lack of co-ordination will result in redundancy of efforts and a fragmentation of resources. Networking will ensure that research work is carried out in a synergistic way. As conversion also affects the economic results of forestry, wood supply and various other goods and services, which forest ecosystems provide to society, networking across Europe is required in order to pool expertise from all relevant forestry disciplines. ConForest intends to combine know-how and research with subsequent integrated analyses, upscaling of results to the European level, and dissemination to all stakeholders in Europe.
The main objective of ConForest is an integrated evaluation of conversion strategies for secondary coniferous forests with respect to the ecological, economic and social goals of forestry. Conversion in this context means the introduction of additional species and / or the gradual change of vertical structure. This process aims to reduce risks for damage as well as to improve sustainability of forests and their multifunctional use on the European level.
To achieve the overall objective of ConForest, the following subordinate objectives will be pursued:
- The dimension of possible conversion needs in the regions / countries involved will be determined:
- identification of coniferous species relevant for conversion, such as Norway spruce (Picea abies [L.] Karst.), Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis [Bong.] Carrière), Scots pine (Pinus silvestris Linné), maritime pine (Pinus pinaster Aiton), and black pine (Pinus nigra Arnold)
- inventory of the area covered by “unstable / low resilience” (= conversion) forests
- 2.Insight will be gained regarding the crucial ecological principles of conversion:
- comparing ecosystem dynamics (nutrient cycles, water balance, biodiversity) in pure coniferous versus structured coniferous and mixed forests
- compiling an overview of short-, medium- and long-term effects on forest growth and timber production
- evaluating risks for damage by abiotic or biotic disturbances (e.g. storm, snow, insects, fire, drought) before, during and after the conversion process
- 3.A catalogue of conversion techniques (management alternatives / silvicultural strategies including equipment options) will be compiled for coniferous forests.
- 4.Profound knowledge of the socio-economic aspects regarding conversion will be gained:
- evaluation of the economic impact of conversion projects
- assessment of public interest and perception of conversion project
Expected main benefits:
The following conclusive output will result from ConForest’s activities:
- structured information on different conversion strategies for secondary coniferous forests with respect to ecological, technical and socio-economic aspects
- stakeholder-oriented dissemination of research results (internet homepage, demonstration plots, presentations, publications and a dedicated international conference).