Coppice abandonment and its implications for species diversity in forest vegetation

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Abstract

Coppicing, once a common type of management in European broadleaved forests, was abandoned in many places after WWII. This form of management provided a variety of structural and microclimatic conditions for tree and understorey vegetation. After the abandonment of this intensive management, succession towards mature close forests ensued, and suitable habitats for species ecologically connected to coppicing were reduced. In our study, we chose a region in central Europe where coppicing was the dominant type of forest management until the first half of the 20th century but was abandoned after WWII. We investigated long-term changes in both woody and herbaceous species composition in the Lower Morava UNESCO Biosphere Reserve using historical sources and vegetation plot resurveys from the 17th to the 21st century. The impact of coppice abandonment on vegetation composition and on the conservation value of forests was evaluated. Dominant tree species appeared to be very stable throughout the past four centuries, but changes occurred in their proportions. A shift from species rich oak-hornbeam woodland towards species poorer communities with increasing proportions of lime, ash and maple was observed after the abandonment of coppicing. The observed tendencies partly differed according to site and data source. The conservation value of forests was measured as the occurrence of red-list species, which were considerably reduced after coppice abandonment. To stop the process of biodiversity loss and support the goals of nature conservation, the re-establishment of coppice management is proposed.

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Müllerová, J., Hédl, R., & Szabó, P. (2015). Coppice abandonment and its implications for species diversity in forest vegetation. Forest Ecology and Management, 343, 88–100. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2015.02.003

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