Full text in PDF
Saving the remaining natural forests in northern Europe has been one of the main goals to halt the ongoing decline of forest biodiversity. To facilitate the recognition, mapping and efficient conservation of natural forests, there is an urgent need for a general formulation, based on ecological patterns and processes, of the concept of “forest naturalness”. However, complexity, structural idiosyncracy and dynamical features of unmanaged forest ecosystems at various spatio-temporal scales pose major challenges for such a formulation. The definitions hitherto used for the concept of forest naturalness can be fruitfully grouped into three dimensions: 1) structure-based concepts of natural forest, 2) species-based concepts of natural forest and 3) process-based concepts of natural forest. We propose that explicit and simultaneous consideration of all these three dimensions of naturalness can better cope with the natural variability of forest states and also aid in developing strategies for forest conservation and management in different situations. To become operational, criteria and indicators of forest naturalness need to integrate the three dimensions by combining species (e.g. red-listed-, indicator- and umbrella species) with stand and landscape level structural features that are indicative of disturbance and succession processes.