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See detailA novel comparative research platform designed to determine the functional significance of tree species diversity in European forests
Baeten, Lander; Verheyen, Kris; Wirth, Christian et al

in Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution & Systematics (2013), 15(5), 281-291

One of the current advances in functional biodiversity research is the move away from short-lived test systems towards the exploration of diversity-ecosystem functioning relationships in structurally more ... [more ▼]

One of the current advances in functional biodiversity research is the move away from short-lived test systems towards the exploration of diversity-ecosystem functioning relationships in structurally more complex ecosystems. In forests, assumptions about the functional significance of tree species diversity have only recently produced a new generation of research on ecosystem processes and services. Novel experimental designs have now replaced traditional forestry trials, but these comparatively young experimental plots suffer from specific difficulties that are mainly related to the tree size and longevity. Tree species diversity experiments therefore need to be complemented with observational studies in existing forests. Here we present the design and implementation of a new network of forest plots along tree species diversity gradients in six major European forest types: the FunDivEUROPE Exploratory Platform. Based on a review of the deficiencies of existing observational approaches and of unresolved research questions and hypotheses, we discuss the fundamental criteria that shaped the design of our platform. Key features include the extent of the species diversity gradient with mixtures up to five species, strict avoidance of a dilution gradient, special attention to community evenness and minimal covariation with other environmental factors. The new European research platform permits the most comprehensive assessment of tree species diversity effects on forest ecosystem functioning to date since it offers a common set of research plots to groups of researchers from very different disciplines and uses the same methodological approach in contrasting forest types along an extensive environmental gradient. [less ▲]

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See detailEffects of tree species diversity on earthworm communities in European forests
de Wandeler, Hans; Ottoy, Sam; Hermy, Martin et al

Poster (2012, July)

The belowground food web holds a big part of the associated biodiversity in forest ecosystems and plays a major role in essential ecosystem processes, e.g. litter decomposition and nutrient turnover. So ... [more ▼]

The belowground food web holds a big part of the associated biodiversity in forest ecosystems and plays a major role in essential ecosystem processes, e.g. litter decomposition and nutrient turnover. So far, important interactions between diversity and composition of above-and belowground food webs have been observed. However the effects of tree species diversity on the belowground food web are so far not conclusive. This study aims at elucidating the effect of tree species mixtures, species diversity and trait diversity on the composition of the earthworm communities in European forests. Experimental platforms of planted tree species diversity assemblages in Finland (Satakunta) and Germany (Biotree) are therefore intensively sampled for earthworms using the combined mustard extraction/hand sorting method. First results are reported and discussed and diversity effects are evaluated with overyielding tests. [less ▲]

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See detailHOW TO MAKE NATURA 2000 WORK PROPERLY? : SOCIO-ECONOMIC, LEGAL AND ECOLOGICAL MANAGEMENT : "SELNAT"
Grogna, Valérie; Mahy, Marie; Meuris, Steve et al

Report (2009)

This report includes results obtained from the SELNAT research project, conducted between February 2006 and January 2008, under the auspices of the Belgian Science Policy. The principal subject of this ... [more ▼]

This report includes results obtained from the SELNAT research project, conducted between February 2006 and January 2008, under the auspices of the Belgian Science Policy. The principal subject of this project is the implementation of Natura 2000. The Natura 2000 network of protected areas, made up of sites designated under the Community Birds (BD) and Habitats Directives (HD), is a key pillar of action for the conservation of biodiversity (European Commission, 2008). It is central to achieve the commitment to reverse the decline of biodiversity in the European Union by the year 2010 made at the European Council meeting in Gothenburg in June 2001. It aims at sustainable conservation of habitats and species of community importance, taking into account (i) economic, social and cultural requirements and (ii) regional and local circumstances. Central to the Directives is the creation of a Europe-wide ecological network of protected sites – the Natura 2000 Network – which is destined to conserve over a thousand rare, threatened and endemic species and some 220 Natural habitats listed in their annexes. Around 24,000 sites have been included in the Network so far. (European Commission, 2008) Now that the network set-up is nearing completion, there is a need to increase the focus on the active management of the sites so as to ensure long-term conservation and the achievement of the economic and social objectives of the network (CEE, 2004.) This in turn also raises the question of finding the appropriate management strategy, instruments and sufficient financing (at all levels). The principal question for Member States is how to manage Natura 2000 sites to reach the (juridical fixed) ecological targets in the most cost-efficient way, taking into account economic and social objectives and constraints. Ecologists and nature organisations often start from an techno-ecocentric paradigm: ‘How to conserve and manage species and habitats?’, in order to tackle the question mentioned above. The paradigm starts from the opinion that ‘diversity of species and habitats’ is important as such (while this is believed to be important for several reasons). This approach has been criticised lately for being based on a too narrow set of values. It has not provided enough opportunities for combining nature conservation with other forms of land use such as agriculture, forestry or tourism. In several countries this led to difficulties as regards the co-operation of local stakeholders (Jongman & Kristiansen, 1998). On the other hand, the current biodiversity crisis is a direct result of the way in which society has chosen to interact with its Natural environment. If the causes of the problem are social, it stands to reason that the policies striving to solve the problem will need to be based on a solid understanding of social structures and processes, if they are to have any effect. In this research project we tried to study the management of Natura 2000 sites from a ‘sustainability’ paradigm, instead of from the ecocentric paradigm. The central research question is therefore formulated as ‘How to manage Natura 2000 properly, to contribute to a (local) sustainable society?’ With this research we hope to give decision-makers new insights on the economic, social, and environmental consequences of Natura 2000 management and to guide them in the development of more adequate and sustainable policies for the management of Natura 2000-sites. In the first chapter the general objectives and approach of this project are described. The second chapter gives an overview of some of the current bottlenecks for nature conservation and Natura 2000. The results of the research on the elaboration of strategies for Natura 2000 sites are summarizes in chapter tree. Conclusions and recommendations are presented in the last chapter. More information on the research is documented in the different appendixes. During the research, we benefited from contacts with many persons, and more especially in the scope of a Users’ Committee. Besides the representatives of the Belgian Science Policy, we would like to thank all members of the Users’ Committee, among which those who supported us and/or participated in one or several of the meetings, [less ▲]

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