The need for an understory decision support system for temperate deciduous forest management

Haben Blondeel, Dries Landuyt, Pieter Vangansbeke, Pieter De Frenne, Kris Verheyen, Michael P. Perring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
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Numerous decision-makers have an interest in how forest biodiversity and functioning will alter under environmental change. These decision-makers may have varied motivations underlying their management response to environmental change by focusing on contrasting management challenges and targets. Decision-makers may use different tools to aid their decision-making when facing uncertainty. We specifically investigate whether decision-makers in forest management across Europe consider the understory (i.e. herbaceous layer) in decision making, as this component constitutes the vast majority of floral biodiversity in temperate forests, and has an important functional role. To address this question, we distributed an online questionnaire to more than 800 forest management decision-makers across Europe, and received 100 completed responses. We assess what objectives drive management decisions, and whether these are consistent depending on respondents’ occupations. Interestingly, regardless of respondent profile, biodiversity loss and climate change are expected to permeate management decisions in the coming decades, motivated primarily by a sense of environmental protection. Priority management targets did not vary across respondent profiles (i.e. occupation) either, and focused on biodiversity values, adaptation and mitigation to climate change, and forest regeneration. The majority of respondents identified the understory as an “Important” target for forest management decisions. Respondents used a mix of personal experience and literature sources to base management decisions on, while infrequently using recognised decision support systems (DSS). No utilised system considered the understory at the moment. Indeed, our review of available forest management DSS, conducted in parallel to the questionnaire, shows that an understory DSS tool, especially one that can consider changing socio-environmental conditions, is lacking for decision-makers. Based on (1) forest management decision-makers’ wide concern around biodiversity loss, climate change and forest regeneration, (2) the known functional role of temperate forest understories, and (3) an apparent lack of existing DSS with an understory component, we identify the requirement for an agile tool that accounts for understory dynamics. Such a tool, especially when integrated into existing DSS, will strongly support decision-makers in their quest to attain more biodiverse, functional and resilient forests for the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118634
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2021


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