Using a Swedish forest biodiversity assessment under Polish conditions
Abstract: During last 2000 years dramatic changes have occurred in Europe and many features of old forest have been lost or declined. The primal goal of many plantations in Europe has been for many decades to provide wood and not much attention was paid to other aspects of forestry. The changes in European forests and introduction of intensive plantations with clear-cuts had tremendous impact on biodiversity. During the early 1990s concern for the loss of biodiversity was introduced on the political agenda and the global processes promoting restoration and maintenance of forest biodiversity started. The term sustainable forest management has become popular and new guidelines for multiple-use forest management were created. One of the major goals of sustainable forestry is restoration and maintenance of high biodiversity and the management activities should be adjusted to the needs of nature conservation. Throughout the development of international policy focused on biodiversity, the need for tools for assessment and evaluation of forest diversity has arisen. Different assessment methods have been elaborated and tested. One of the biodiversity assessment method developed and used in Sweden is the "Assessment of Forest Biodiversity Potential" (Drakenberg and Lindhe, 1999), here called "The Swedish assessment". It is a method of indirect assessment of biodiversity, which is based on disturbance regimes in the forest. The main objective of this work was to investigate if the Swedish assessment could be used in Poland and if this kind of assessment is needed in Polish forestry. The literature review was conducted to find background information on biodiversity and methods of its assessments in Europe, forests in Poland and Sweden and forestry and nature conservation in Poland. The Swedish assessment was used during the field work in Poland. The Swedish assessment was applied in 25 stands in three Polish national parks (Drawa, Kampinos and Pieniny). Poland and Sweden are situated in the same geographical region and have similar climatic conditions, apart from the northern part of Sweden. Both countries are located in the same vegetation zones (apart from the Boreal zone that covers northern part of Sweden). They are characterised by the same types of forests and the same disturbance regimes, however in different proportions. All the main forest types occurring in Poland and Sweden could be classified into one of the six forest categories of the Swedish assessment. Therefore the assessment can be used in both countries. Nevertheless, some adjustments are needed for the Polish version of the assessment. There is no regular assessment of biodiversity potential of forest areas in Poland. The new protection areas can be created when some organisation, institution or private person report area that they consider as worth of being protected. Before, a detailed documentation describing values of the area must be prepared. No system of assessment of the biodiversity potential similar to the Swedish assessment was found in Poland. All evaluations of the values of forest areas are based on the descriptions of the stands. The author believes that the Swedish assessment could be a useful tool of selection of valuable areas in the managed forests. It could be included into programs of nature conservation in forest districts. The assessment could also be an indirect tool of management and an education tool for foresters. It could also be a help in selecting NATURA 2000 areas. The author suggests a step-wise introduction of the assessment in Poland, starting with workshops introducing the method and continuing with a project of implementation of the assessment in the whole country. Along the way more research on the use of the Swedish assessment in Poland should be carried out. Some adjustments are needed if the Swedish assessment is to be used in Poland. Some of the investigated stands were out of the scope of the assessment. Probably new forest categories would have to be created for Polish conditions (for example fir dominated stands). Fire is not a main disturbance regime in Poland, therefore some questions in the Swedish assessment concerning fire are not relevant. The author also suggests that questions in the assessment should be different for lowland and mountain stands. The stands chosen for the assessment had high conservation values. The assessment carried out in the stands also gave a high score to all the stands. This confirms that the assessment could be used in Polish high value forests. There were differences between scoring in various forest categories. For example 14 – 15 points means high value in the F category (fire adapted pioneer tree forests, usually with pine), whereas in W category (forests influenced by water, usually with alder) 18 – 20 points means high value of the forest. In general, the lower score in particular categories, the lower the age of the stand. It is understandable, since many features crucial for biodiversity occur only in older stands. The most common features in the investigated stands were features from the "dead wood" group. This result is surprising, since, according to Polish research, dead wood is missing in Polish national parks. Only three out of 23 national parks were chosen and 25 stands were investigated, therefore results may not be representative for the whole Poland, however they can give some insight into features common in Polish national parks.
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