Full text in PDF
Assessing the human impact on the naturalness and vegetation characteristics of protected areas is one of the key issues when designing forest conservation networks in Fennoscandia. We studied the small-scale, detailed relationship between forest utilization history and the current availability of dead woody material in a protected old-growth forest area in North Karelia, eastern Finland. From the study area of 32.4 ha, all the stumps (diameter ≥ 5 cm and height < 1.3 m, classified as natural, man-made and of undetermined origin) were measured using 25 x 25 m sub-plots. Standing and fallen dead trees (dbh ≥ 5 cm) were measured on 50 x 50 m plots in an area of 7.8 ha. The average number of stumps was 130 per ha, and over half of the stumps were classified as man-made. However, the historical documents since the 1910s showed no logging in the area: some of the largest man-made stumps probably originated from an earlier time, but most of those stumps were made considerably later. The variation in the total number of stumps (per ha) was great (range 0–560/ha, 0–16 m2/ha), with no clear clustering in space. However, clustering of man-made stumps was detected. The average volume of pooled standing and fallen trees was 84 m3/ha, with a range of 37–146 m3/ha. The other noticeable man-made disturbance besides logging was notching of aspens, which has a scatteredly significant influence on the amount of dead trees. In conclusion, the protected old-growth forest was not as a whole in a natural state but showed different degrees of human impact from virtually untouched patches to quite heavily managed patches. The results suggest that the number of man-made stumps may be a relatively quick and easy method of assessing the naturalness of woody biomass structure in the Fennoscandian boreal forests.