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Renaturalisation of forest ecosystems: is a reference model really needed?

Author(s): Nocentini S

Journal: Forest@
ISSN 1824-0119

Volume: 3;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 376;
Date: 2006;
Original page

Keywords: Forest management | Simplified forest systems | Ecological restoration | Plantation | Silviculture

Renaturalisation is more and more often considered the aim of management when dealing with simplified forests. The term “renaturalisation” has become the keyword of many forest management projects. A reference model or system is often considered essential for forest renaturalisation. This approach is coherent with a school of thought which finds relevant examples in the science and practice of Ecological restoration. The search for a reference system has several practical limitations and, especially, a severe theoretical fault. The definition of a reference system underlies the idea that ecosystem reactions to management can be exactly forecast and thus ecosystems can be guided towards a predefined composition, structure and functionality. This idea stems from a deterministic imprinting which characterises traditional forestry thinking and which is clearly in contrast with the dynamic nature of forest ecosystems. If renaturalisation is seen as a silvicultural and management approach which tends to favour natural evolutionary processes through the system’s ability to autonomously increase its complexity and biodiversity, then the actual system under management is the only possible reference system. An accurate analysis of the evolutionary trends in relation to the actual environmental conditions and landscape matrix should therefore be the basis for the renaturalisation process. Management must proceed as an experiment: the reaction to each intervention must be monitored using appropriate indicators. These are not to be seen as reference limits but as parameters for quantifying changes in the system’s self-regulating processes. In conclusion, renaturalisation has more to do with the way we interact with nature than with a closed project with a clearly defined beginning and end.
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