Changing Forest Dynamics

Plot-based evidence

Authored by: Simon Willcock , Nikée E. Groot

Routledge Handbook of Forest Ecology

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415735452
eBook ISBN: 9781315818290
Adobe ISBN: 9781317816447

10.4324/9781315818290.ch12

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Abstract

Since the Middle Ages, when intensive forest use led to wood shortages in some regions, decision-makers have had to monitor forests to ensure an adequate supply of resources for future use. In these early days of forestry, visual estimations of forest characteristics dominated, until the 1830s when Scandinavian foresters developed more rigorous monitoring techniques whereby stems were measured in systematic strips of forest, contributing to the very first national forest inventories (Kangas and Maltamo 2006). However, it was soon recognised the systematic use of strips was not the most efficient method to monitor forest characteristics, so this was replaced by measuring stems within small, square or circular plots at set intervals. Up to this point, established plots were temporary and it was not until the mid-twentieth century that continuous forest inventory systems were introduced (Stott 1947). This newly developed method relied on permanent fixed plots in which all trees were numbered and measured annually, allowing components of forest growth to be estimated for the first time, e.g. tracking growth and death of individual stems over time. The continuous forest inventory system was refined from annual measurements to 5–10 year intervals, often being used in combination with temporary plots, much like forest inventory techniques used across the world today. Forest monitoring has continually been adapted to reflect current issues as the role of forests in society has evolved. In the 1980s attention turned from managing timber stock to maintaining forest health and conserving biodiversity, with methods altering to reflect this. More recently, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has attempted to reduce the impacts of human-induced climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions; many forest monitoring methods now include this component, enabling managed forests to have a positive effect on the atmospheric CO2 balance (see Chapter 37).

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