Thinning in temperate forests

Forests provide society with essential ecosystem services. Climate change influences their functioning and thereby threatens the provision of these benefits. Increased tree mortality and decreasing growth trends due to climate change-related droughts have already been observed. Droughts are expected to increase in frequency, duration, and intensity in the future, thereby posing one of the largest threats to forest ecosystems in Temperate Europe. Climate-smart forest management has been proposed as a drought alleviation strategy, with thinning, in addition to smart species selection and mixture, as its main tool. However, the possible drawback of thinning on the forest microclimate is often overlooked, even though it is an ecosystem feature underlying forest biodiversity and many forest ecosystem processes. Therefore, this research aims at understanding the relationship between climate-smart forest management and the drought response of trees, while also investigating the negative feedbacks of management on the microclimate. This research will result in an integrated understanding of the effectiveness and trade-offs of drought alleviation management strategies in oak and beech forests in Flanders. Researcher: Sanne Verdonck

Koenraad Van Meerbeek
Koenraad Van Meerbeek
Assistant professor