The Cansiglio LIFE Project: an Interesting Way to Learn About How Forests Work - Within a Forest.


The Cansiglio LIFE Project.

Why is this Project (LIFE+ManFor C.BD.) Being Born?

Forests are not just about the production of timber: they regulate the climate; they are reservoirs of biodiversity and also provide formidable opportunities for recreation and study. Too often, however, the management methods traditionally applied consider only the productive aspect of forests, even though other woodland functions are actually more important and, often, even economically more relevant. Efforts have been made for some time now in order to take those aspects to the fore, so to update the classic silviculture methods (woodland management), also thanks to what scientific research has been able to produce over the last few years: the LIFE+ManFor C.BD project was conceived precisely in this context, and with the intent of valuing the multi-functionality of woodlands.

Why a LIFE+ Project?

The LIFE+ Projects are a particular category of applied projects financed by the EU Commission, which have the goal to translate the results of research into everyday reality, also envisaging – as a demonstrative goal – the practical application of what research has been able to produce so far. In this sense, therefore, LIFE+ represents the ideal instrument with which to realize what the ManFor Project is set to achieve.

Woodland Management and Woodland Clearing.

Management represents the way in which man can interact with the natural environment – including  forests. Given that the majority of the Italian forests is being used in order to produce timber, it would be correct to define their management as the way in which the forest is being – so to speak – ‘cultivated’ (this is also the reason why it is called ‘silviculture’, after all). These forests are different from those that exist in conditions of full ‘naturalness’, able to perpetuate themselves without the intervention of man. One should not make the mistake, therefore, to assume that – were we to stop caring for them – managed forests would continue their evolution without repercussions: in fact, interrupting the management would soon lead, in many cases, to a regression and to less complex and poorer formations, before seeing the forest slowly advance again.

A tall tree woodland formation like the one in Cansiglio can be managed by following several different schemes but, in general, it has a life cycle of its own, during the course of which it becomes gradually shaped through thinning (or clearing) operations. Thinning interventions are being carried out periodically in order to regulate the woodland density, by preserving and bettering its structure. The interventions that the ManFor C.BD. project has carried out in the Cansiglio forest have been precisely a thinning operation, executed with the goal to provide an example of how timber – as a resource – can be obtained while helping climate regulation and preserving biodiversity, valuing at the same time the woodland and its multi-functionality.        

What’s Got Woodlands to Do with Climate Change?   

The upheavals in the climate are by now an evidence that is calling us to intervene with a certain urgency. Climate change is mostly connected with the rise in temperatures due to the greenhouse gases, induced, in turn, by rising concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Plants, thanks to photosynthesis, remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, storing the carbon contained in it within their cellular structure (trunk, branches, roots), and transferring part of it back into the soil. This process tends to reduce the greenhouse effect, contributing in turn to mitigate the climatic changes more efficiently than any other terrestrial ecosystem.

Biodiversity.

The biodiversity of a forest ecosystem is not just about beauty and complexity; it is first and foremost a synonym for its strength, resilience and capacity to react. An ecosystem that contains many species is like a team with many talents which, depending on the circumstance, is able to change strategy to the advantage of its affirmation. The loss of biodiversity increases the vulnerability of the landscape in the case of a calamitous event; it is therefore fundamental that whoever manages a woodland be made aware of this potential problem, and that this prospect is kept in sight when making choices concerning its management. Many studies are proving how a high rate of biodiversity and the percentage of dead wood in a forest are strictly connected. To that aim, this project envisages some innovative approaches regarding the release of dead wood (in different forms) in the woodland, and the realization of a ‘senescence island’. This ‘islet’ has an extension of about 3 ha, and is realized by means of a cutting intervention, finalized to the release of mature plants, while also foreseeing ‘ad hoc’ operations, geared at making the tree layer artificially ‘mature' with girdling interventions, the creation of small water-gathering basins at the foot of the trees – and more.

Main Goal of the Project.

This project intends to demonstrate how, thanks to a multi-functional approach in management, it is possible to use the resource ‘wood’ and keep a good quantitative and qualitative timber production, while at the same time preserve biodiversity, without ever diminishing the effectiveness of woodlands in mitigating climate change.

Methodology.

Species and forest ecosystems that have historically been managed in a traditional way have been individuated in two European countries (Italy and Slovenia), and some sites have been designated in them, connected along a line that goes north-south within Italy, and west-east from Italy to Slovenia. In Italy have been taken into consideration Beech woods, Conifer woods (mixed Norway Spruce and Silver Fir forest; mixed Norway Spruce/Larch formations) and Oak woods (in Central Italy); in Slovenia, have been taken into account mixed Beech/Norway Spruce/Silver Fir woodland formations. In each site, by means of measurements before the interventions, have been valued: – the structure of vegetation; – its connections with the surrounding woodlands; – the degree of biodiversity present in terms of flora and fauna, and the presence of dead wood; – the carbon stored in the trees and soil, and their capacity to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Additionally, one or two options of innovative management have been been elaborated and proposed, to be accompanied by the traditional approach, already enforced by management of the site. These options are geared at: – produce a good selection of quality wood, from which it is then possible to obtain precious timber (a wooden beam can hold carbon even for centuries, while firewood gives it back to the atmosphere in a relatively short time); – contain the effects that induce climate change; – conserve biodiversity; – increase the structural complexity of woodlands (this is important both in ecological terms, and as far as use of the land – for tourism and conservation purposes – is concerned).

The response of the woodland is being registered by confronting the measurements taken before and after the interventions. This verifies the efficacy of the thesis advanced by the proposed management. With the goal of making them easier to observe, also on a wide scale, the measurements are organized with indicators that will summarize the data collected, so to be able to assess the sustainability levels of the new management, once enforced (these are known as ‘sustainable forest management indicators’).      

What Will Be the Legacy of this Project?

At the end of the works (in Sept. 2015), the project has left an important legacy of updated information, useful and practical, which can readily be accessed and used as tools of diagnosis by silviculture practitioners: these are management indicators, guidelines, manuals of good practice in sustainable forest management and a network of demonstrative areas, bearing witness to the operations carried out within the project. Hopefully, this will also contribute to develop – in the communities interested by the project – an increased awareness of the role of woodlands in mitigating the greenhouse effect (through absorption and conservation of atmospheric carbon dioxide), and also as strongholds of biodiversity.

Organisation.

A project of such dimensions, in order to work, needs several skills. It is therefore articulated in different areas of expertise, known as ‘actions’, each of which is led by a specific group of experts in the subject. In particular, the actions can be grouped in: (a) actions pertaining the preparation, management and monitoring of the project; (b) actions of actualization; (c) actions of communication and diffusion.


Managing the Cansiglio Forest With Multiple Purposes.      

The Cansiglio Forest.

The portion of forest covered by this project is a Beech wood extended over about 30 ha, with an age comprised between 120 and 145 years, historically managed according to certified Management Plans which regulate where, how and when to intervene, with the goal to guarantee the perpetuation of the forest. The age currently reached by many public forests – as the one here in Cansiglio – is superior to what envisaged by the original management plans. This delay in the intervention is an indication of the fact that, over time, there has been a decrease in economic interest for wood (timber) as a produce, but also a delay in the affirmation of a new social and environmental demand. The search for silvicultural techniques able to fulfill the new demands has led to set up a comparison test between traditional and innovative silviculture practices, aimed at maintaining intact the traditional functions of a forest while realizing the emerging ones with increased efficacy.      

Options of Forest Management Tested Within the Cansiglio Forest.

– Traditional Intervention;
– Innovative Intervention;
– Postponement of the thinning/clearing operations, leaving the forest to evolve for a few years longer before cutting. All of these options are being repeated in three different sub-areas (so-called ‘plots’, of about 3 ha), in order to strengthen the possibility of confronting the obtained results. In each ‘plot’, whichever the treatment, have been set up three ‘trial areas’, where the responses of the woodland in terms of carbon stocking and biodiversity are being measured.

Overview of the Trail.

Along the demonstrative trail set up within the ManFor site there are a series of stops that illustrate the different activities that are carried out in the area. In the proximity of each stop are present structures and other instruments that are being used for the activities envisaged by the project, as well as explanation boards. Below is an overview of the stops, which will then be described in more detail one by one.

Stop 1. Carbon esteem: A. Some measurement methods; B. Area managed according to traditional methodologies: description of criteria;

Stop 2. Monitoring Biodiversity: A. Insects; B. Amphibians and Reptiles;

Stop 3. Monitoring Biodiversity: A. Birds; B. Bats;

Stop 4. Monitoring Biodiversity: A. Flora; B. Dead Wood;

Stop 5. Area managed according to innovative methodologies: A. Description of criteria; B. Monitoring management by measuring the nutrients;

Stop 6. Area of demonstration of the methodologies used by the ‘Corpo Forestale dello Stato (Italian Forestry Commission), for the realization of the National Inventory of Forests and of Forest Carbon Reservoirs.



1. Carbon esteem: Traditional Management of the Cansiglio Forest.

At this stop we are inside the area managed according to traditional methods. Naturally, with the passing years, the trees that form a woodland grow in dimension (in height and trunk diameter), competing and always trying to reach higher than the neighboring ones, so to have all the necessary light in order to grow. In a woodland population with specimens of the same age, the trees that do not manage to keep up with the same rate of growth maintain more reduced dimensions, until remaining in the shadow of the others and finally die out.  

Traditional management accompanies a woodland’s natural dynamic; in fact, every 20-25 years, the woodland is thinned out in a homogeneous way over the whole surface (partial cut), by removing the ‘dominated’ trees (that is, the trees whose canopies do not reach the upper-story level, in full light, or those that are damaged or malformed). Thus, one can reduce the level of competition among the different trees, and their distribution in the space available for growth can be bettered: a situation that allows an optimal use of resources such as light, water, nutrients.

This type of intervention leaves a relatively uniform woodland structure. The cover exercised by the canopies is rarely interrupted. After each thinning, the number of individual trees left in place is reduced, but at the same time, the dimension of the remaining ones – which have won the competition over the others – increases with the age of the woodland. Therefore, the structural physiognomy (the ‘form’) and the ecological inclination of the forest do not change substantially. 

Managing the Forest Better to Mitigate the Greenhouse Effect.

In order to better understand the role of the forest in respect to the carbon cycle one has to measure the quantity of carbon which is being stored within the diverse components of the woodland.

In particular: – within the biomass (leaves, branches, trunk and roots), by measuring also the dimension of the trees; – in the dead wood (dead trees, often still standing or lying, plus plant residues of large and small size), whose volume needs to be assessed; – in the litter (fallen leaves and small fragments of wood, by intercepting them with baskets as they fall, and picking them up from the ground); – in the soil (humus and mineral soil), sampled with some probings.   

Additionally, what is being measured is also the quantity of carbon dioxide emitted by the perspiration of the soil (which is one of the main components of the carbon cycle in the forest), by means of an instrument that is being inserted in collars fixed to the ground.


2. Managing Woodlands to Defend Biodiversity.

The project has as goal to identify good silviculture practices, with the determination to uphold the biological diversity of the forest. In order to achieve this goal, however, the complexities of the plant and animal communities must be monitored in their different components.

Insects.

For number of species, insects (or the herpetofauna) represent by far the largest component of biodiversity in terrestrial environments: in Italy are present almost 40,000 species of insects, many of which belong to forest species, and play a particularly important role within their ecosystem.

The study of entomological diversity avails itself of specifically designed traps, in order to capture specific groups of insects. Each species has its peculiar habits and preferences, which are taken into account by the different traps.    

The syrphid – as well as other dipteran – tend to overtake an obstacle by flying upwards and straight towards the light. Therefore, in order to capture them are used traps that lead the insect towards a bottle, which is positioned in the highest and more illuminated part of the structure.

Many coleopteran (and other flying insects), on the contrary, as they meet an obstacle, precipitate and fall to the ground. In order to capture them, one can use aerial traps with two transparent panels (so-called ‘window traps’), which intercept the insects while flying and lead them towards a bottle placed under the trap.

The carabid (or ground beetles) and other land insects generally skim over the ground surface, searching for prey. In order to capture them, the traps that are generally used work as a snare, and direct the insect to fall towards a bottle, which is positioned underground. 

The insects, once collected, are then identified and catalogued, thus allowing to evaluate the degree of diversity of this essential component for a healthy functioning of the forest ecosystem.  


Amphibians and Reptiles.

Forests host a great number of amphibians and reptiles. In the presence of water habitats, the amphibians can be present with very numerous populations. Therefore, their conservation cannot be separated from appropriate forest management practices.

In a forest setting there live species of amphibians and reptiles that love fresh environments, and in little need of sunlight. The conditions of humidity are fundamental for certain species – such as  Spectacled Salamander (Salamandrina terdigitata) – which, endowed with rudimentary lungs, only breathe through the skin; as a consequence, these animals always have to keep in contact with the air or a damp litter.

Each species of amphibian and reptile – characterized by different ecological and physiological needs – must at all times protect itself from predators, look for the most appropriate places where to hunt, defend itself from dehydration and the excessive temperatures of the summer months, as well as the rigid temperatures of winter.

Small knobs at the base of trees; clefts and interstices that are created in the soil in correspondence with the roots, and old, fallen or rotting trunks, laying on the litter, can all become suitable shelters where to protect oneself from adversity; they can be damp environments in torrid days and privileged locations where to find food, as well as temporary hiding places that allow the animal to displace itself more safely over large distances; they are also arenas for the males to fight and court the females.

Marked alterations in these habitats can strongly compromise the presence of species of amphibians and reptiles of great value from a bio-geographic and conservation point of view.

Within the ManFor C.BD Project are being experimented, tested and confronted traditional and innovative silviculture practices, in order to comprehend which of these allow an optimal compromise between woodland management and protection of the herpetofauna.

Besides, studies are also being forwarded in order to understand which characteristics make a tree a good shelter for the amphibians, to then keep this information in mind in the decision phase, which will lead to the cutting of some trees, so to be able to keep those that have the maximum suitability for supporting amphibian life. 


3. Managing Woodlands to Defend Biodiversity.

Birds.

The Project aims to identify good forest management practices, in order to protect biological diversity. Forests host an elevated number of bird species (also known as avifauna), which often represent the most prominent component in the community of vertebrates.

The forest bird-life counts within its numbers species distinguished by ecological roles that are indispensable for the natural balance. Precisely in these environments nest – almost exclusively – the most specialized bird species; therefore, conservation cannot be separated from a correct forest management.

The bird species that live in forest environments are generally speaking not very conspicuous; they present a mimetic plumage and rely on song for their communication, which plays a fundamental role both in coordinating the flock (in the social species) and to mark the territory – in the solitary species. Among the birds that typically thrive in the forest, woodpeckers perform a particularly important role, as they feed mostly on insect larvae present in the wood – especially if it is rotting – and nest in cavities that they dig by themselves, generally in mature trees of large dimensions.

The reduction and fragmentation of forest habitats, and – more in general – a management that does not consider the biodiversity component can strongly compromise a bird’s reproductive success, thus determining, sometimes, even the extinction of the more sensitive species at local level.

Within the ManFor C.BD. Project are being experimented and evaluated traditional and innovative silviculture practices, in order to comprehend which of these allow an optimal compromise between forest management and protection of the avifauna. Within the framework of this project are also forwarded studies in order to identify bird species that can be used as indicators for the state of health of woodlands.


Bats.

Forests can host a great number of species of chiropteran (bats). The conservation of veteran trees, rich in cavities, in a withering or even desiccated state, allows the survival of the bats that live in a woodland environment. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to adopt appropriate forest management practices.

Bats in Forest Environments.

Forest habitats are being used by many species of bats in order to feed during the night, where they hunt insects both under and above the tree canopies. The mostly predominant ‘phitophile’ bats (that is, those that prefer almost exclusively the forest environments) use woodland also as a way to find a shelter where to rest during the day, within which they can carry out other very important biological functions too – such as lethargy, delivery of the off-springs and nursing.

For these reasons, the bats search in the trees particular cavities that can fulfill their biological needs, such as – for example – the holes dug (and abandoned) by the woodpeckers, rotting wood and cracks in the bark.

Obviously, not all trees can offer refuge to chiropterans, but only the tallest or oldest specimens, the withering ones, and those that are already desiccated but still standing. A careful forest management practice must necessarily foresee the protection of trees displaying these features.         

Numerous scientific studies have allowed to individuate the characteristics preferred by bats, as they are in search for tree shelters. Marked alterations to forest habitats can seriously compromise the presence of the most sensitive bat species – for this reason also the more threatened.

Within the ManFor C.BD. Project are being experimented, evaluated and confronted traditional and innovative silviculture practices, in order to comprehend which of these allow an optimal compromise between forest management and the protection of chiropteran species.


4. Managing Woodlands to Defend Biodiversity.

Dead Wood, a Good Indicator of Biodiversity.

Management practices must take into account the relevance of dead wood in a forest ecosystem, as it provides innumerable habitats of fundamental importance for the conservation of biodiversity. It is therefore vital to leave or release dead wood in the forest, so to protect the ‘naturalness’ of the woodland itself.

The plants that, in a forest, are headed towards senescence, and dead wood, represent a fundamental component for the stability of the woodland environment.

Dead wood – constituted mostly of dead trees, broken or uprooted, stranded trunks, rotting root systems and hollowed, decaying trees – plays a key role in the forest ecosystems: it absorbs and stores carbon; ameliorates the hydro-geological efficiency of the mountain slopes, protecting them from erosion; favors the formation of a receptive humus, useful for the natural renovation of the woodland, and constitutes a steady, reliable source of nutrients in the soil.

Additionally, its presence is also fundamental for the upkeep and conservation of biodiversity, representing the micro-habitat for hundreds of species of small mammals, birds, amphibians, invertebrates, mushrooms, bryophytes and lichens.  

Dead wood does not represent a threat for the health of the forest. Nevertheless, since the mid-19th C, the total amount of dead wood in managed woodlands has been drastically declining, and its quantities are much inferior to those observed in woodlands that are not managed by man.   

Within the ManFor C.BD. project are being experimented alternative silviculture practices, in order to increase the presence of dead wood, by leaving in the woodland the residue of timber production and of the forest management, as well as by ‘artificially’ creating dead trees, standing or lying, and by enhancing areas where the woodland structures are left to free evolution.

Within this project is also being carried out a survey on the effects induced by an increased presence of dead wood in the forest multi-fold ecosystems and their components.


Flora and Vegetation.

This project aims to identify good silviculture practices, in order to protect biological diversity, through monitoring the various components that characterize the forest ecosystems, amongst which are flora and vegetation.  

In the common language, the terms flora and vegetation often get confused, and are being used with the same meaning, while in fact they identify two different aspects of the vegetal cover. With flora one has to intend the list of the single plant species that grow in a given area, while with vegetation one refers to the totality of the species that compose the plant communities of a given territory – such as woodlands, meadows, marshes or shrub habitats – while keeping into consideration the factors that influence the way they group together within the same community.

The floral composition of a plant community – besides being a good indicator of biological diversity (in terms of the number of species that compose it) – provides at the same time a multitude of information on the state of health of the plant community itself, as this is a reflection of the ecological conditions of the area where it is found.

The actions of monitoring flora and vegetation consist in individuating and recording the tree, shrub and herb species present in the experimental areas, and assign each of them a ground cover percentage. Setting as a goal to estimate the efficacy of the silvicultural interventions, an audit is carried out in two stages: before and after the forest treatment, so to obtain two ‘photographs’ – which can then be compared – on the state of health of the flora and vegetation present.

During the first phase of the audit, before the treatment, are individuated the species of interest: these are endemic or rare plants, subject to protection or taken as indicators of a woodland in a good state of conservation. These plants have precisely been designated as target (or sensitive) species, in order to monitor the effects of the interventions.

In order to grow, trees need resources that are mainly produced by the soil, and absorb them with their root systems. By modifying the number of plants in a woodland, is also being modified the quantity of nutrients available to the remaining ones.

The majority of plants in a forest have in their leaves a characteristic concentration of nutrients, which are normally recomposed in a balanced relation. By measuring the concentration of nutrients in the leaves one can therefore obtain important information regarding the state of health of a plant, which – in turn – provides valuable information on the surrounding environment too.   

In order to measure the concentration of nutrients in the leaves, it is necessary to pick up samples from the top of the plant. The most efficient and less invasive method of taking leaf samples is by picking up the material thanks to a specialized operator who climbs up onto the tree canopy.

Tree-climbing techniques are very similar to those employed in speleology, and envisage the throwing of a sling over a branch, which is then used to bring further rope up into the tree canopy, onto which the operator must secure himself, with the help of specific tools, for the different phases (ascent, positioning in the canopy, and descent). The rope/sling then remains on the plant, to be available again for future surveys: slings are still visible on some trees in this area, left there to be used in successive surveys that will be carried out on a yearly basis. 


5. Measuring nutrients.

An innovative forest management can help us mitigate climate change and conserve biodiversity.

Innovative criteria, too, accompany the evolution of woodlands as it happens naturally, but in a different way in comparison to the traditional methods. Instead of progressively eliminating trees that have lost the competition with other trees, in this case the forest technician individuates a number of trees selected for the good conformation of their trunk and the development of their canopy; these are plants that should grow better than others, and therefore get to the point of forming a mature woodland, ready for the final cut: the one that will favor the affirmation of new plants, which will – in turn – renew the woodland itself. The technician then thins the forest out, so to further favor the chosen trees by cutting those immediately nearby – direct competitors in the occupation of the aerial space (at the canopy level) – thus guaranteeing a vital, harmonious development of the selected trees. These cuts are carried out every 20-25 years, while the final cut – the one that goes to renovate the woodland – can be made at much longer intervals.

In this way is being increased – and, most of all, prolonged over time – the capacity of carbon accumulation and storage (in the canopies and in the more exposed and active root systems); thus are also created partial voids in the tree cover at canopy level. These empty spaces allow a better penetration of heat, light and of the water due to precipitations (variations of the internal micro-climate), increasing the activity of micro-organisms in the soil, the settlement of herbaceous-shrubby vegetation at the under-story level (therefore a rise in plant biodiversity) and the creation of further habitats, ecological niches and sources of nourishment (enhancement of the plant-insect-predator food chain), with a subsequent rise in overall biodiversity. In this way, the physiognomy of the woodland that results (the trees that occupy the space both horizontally and vertically) is certainly more articulated, in comparison to the model of traditional silviculture. Besides, some dead trees (both entire and broken) are being left standing or lying (among those that have been cut), so to increase the quantity of dead wood present in the forest, which creates important habitats for the fauna and mushrooms (according to the parameters that have been suggested for the European woodlands), helping in turn to develop the presence of organisms that feed on wood and create additional trophic chains, useful in order to close the biological cycle of organic substance within the forest.    


6. The National Inventory of Forests and of Forest Carbon Reservoirs.

What is INFC 2005?

The national forest inventories are being created in order to get to know the entity and quality of the forest resources in any given country. The main goal of these studies is to provide information, for the various types of woodland, on certain topics such as: – surface, – quantity of biomass and of carbon stored, – rhythm of growth, – state of health, etc. In Italy these surveys are being carried out on behalf of the ‘Corpo Forestale dello Stato’ (Italian Forestry Commission) and follow one another periodically, so to constitute important instruments for monitoring. The surveys are based on significant “sample areas”, chosen at national level, for whose realization has been adopted an inventory scheme that envisages the taking of samples in three phases, based on points generated over a kilometric grid. This inventory is articulated into three successive phases.

Phase 1.

By visualizing high resolution aerial images on a computer screen, about 301,000 points are being selected over the national territory (one for each square of the reticulate, 1km x 1km), classified in classes of land use/soil cover and, if need be, also in sub-classes, always following the proposed scheme. From these hundreds of thousands of points one then proceeds by taking into consideration not just the woodlands proper, but also other areas occupied by tree and shrub formations – such as sparse woodlands, low woodlands, thickets and the shrubby habitats attributed to the sub-class ‘wooded areas’.

For clarity and comprehensiveness, a list of the classes of land use/soil cover – and relative sub-classes  – follows:

Class: Artificial Surfaces; Sub-classes: Urban Parks, Other Artificial Surfaces;
Class: Agricultural Surfaces; Sub-classes: Timber Production plants, Other Agricultural Surfaces;
Class: Wooded Surfaces, Semi-natural Environments; Sub-classes: Wooded Areas, Meadows, Pastures and Uncultured Land, Areas with sparse or absent vegetation;
Class: Wetlands;
Class: Water. 

Phase 2.

In this phase, we operate on a ‘sub-sample’ of about 1/10 of the points chosen in phase 1 through surveys at the level of the soil, on circular sample areas (ARS 2000), but also through photo interpretation, the consultation of cartography (maps) and land archives, as well as the realization of interviews. The main goals are: – classify, once and for all, the use of soil (forest or non-forest type of use) and the vegetation type (category and sub-category); – gather qualitative attributes (administrative and normative aspects; characteristics of the upper layers of soil and of the individual stations). Silver Fir forest, for instance, has been classified thus: – inventory category: tall woodlands; – forest category: Silver Fir (Abies alba) woodlands; – forest sub-category: Silver Fir woodland with Blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) and Majanthemum (‘abieti-faggeta’).

Here is a list of some more forest categories and relative sub-categories:

Category: Larch (Larix decidua)-Swiss Pine (Pinus cembra) woodlands; Sub-categories: Larch formations in closed tall forest, Larch-Swiss Pine woodlands, isolated Larch in Sub-alpine heath;
Category: Norway Spruce (Picea abies) woodlands; Sub-categories: Sub-alpine Norway Spruce forest, Alpine (or montane) Norway Spruce forest;
Category: Silver Fir (Abies alba) woodlands; Sub-categories: Silver Fir woodland with Blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) and Majanthemum, Silver Fir woodland with Cardamine;
Category: Beech (Fagus sylvatica) woodland; Sub-categories: Mesophile Beech woodland, Acidophilous Beech woodland with Luzula
Category: Oak Woodland; Sub-categories: Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) woodland, Downy Oak (Quercus pubescens) woodland and English Oak (Quercus robur) woodland;
Category: Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) woodland; Sub-categories: fruit-producing Sweet chestnut woodland, timber-producing Sweet Chestnut woodland;
Category: Pine woodlands and Mediterranean pinewoods; Sub-categories: Pine woodlands with Maritime Pine (Pinus pinaster), Pine woodlands with Stone Pine (Pinus pinea).   

Phase 3.

Quantitative reliefs. In this phase are being carried out quantitative reliefs on a sub-sample of 7,000 points, by means of ground operations, which involve some parameters able to provide many indicators related to the forest, such as: – its fertility; – its evolutionary stage; – its ‘state of health’; – the methodology with which it is being managed; – its levels of biodiversity (mainly through surveys on dead wood and forest renovation); – the quantity of vegetal mass present (trunks, branches, leaves). For phase 3 surveys – but also for the reliefs of the descriptive attributes in phase 2 – a system of circular ‘sample-areas’ was adopted, arranged around a survey point termed ‘C’, as selected in phase 1.

A main survey area (called AdS13), with a radius of 3 m, has been adopted for the selection and classification of the trees (as for species, vitality and longevity, degree of deterioration/decay, etc), for the measurement of the diameter of all specimens bigger than 9.5 cm, for the quantification of dead wood and – wherever cuts have been made – of the portion of plants that have been left on the ground (stumps). A smaller survey area, called AdS4 – with a radius of 4 m and concentric to the first – has been adopted for the same type of survey, but also for trees with a diameter inferior to 9.5 cm. Further accessory measurements have been conducted on a larger surface area, always concentric to the former, with a radius of 25 m (AdS25, coinciding with the ARS 2000 areas of phase 2). Lastly, surveys on the under-story – including the presence of potential renovation – have taken place in two sample areas termed AdS2, with a radius of 2 m, positioned along the diameter of the AdS13 area (coinciding also with the AdS25 and ARS 2000 areas).

In order to develop its protocol, the LIFE+ManFor C.BD. project has taken inspiration from the surveys of the third phase of the IFCN 2005 protocol, thus guaranteeing continuity and compatibility with what observed in this forest by the ‘Corpo Forestale dello Stato’ (Italian Forestry Commission) over the years.


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