NordGen Forest Conference 2016 - selected topics
Landscape history has a long tradition in the Nordic countries, but has often been perceived as a mere curiosity. Today there is however a general acceptance of the importance of areasâ€™ long-term ecological history for the understanding of present biodiversity, as contemporary forests provide very limited indications concerning long-term tree species composition in northern Europe.
The study of past landscapes and ecosystems is known as paleoecology, which is closely related to geology, biology and botany, as well as history and archaeology. The unique benefit of paleoecology as compared to neo-ecology is the time perspective, as it enables identification of phenomena beyond timescales of direct human experience, which might only correspond to two or three tree generations.
Although there are large similarities, it is however important to remember that the Nordic countries by no means share the exact same history, but that present vegetation is the result of natural properties and traditional management at that specific site â€“ at least up to modern time. Todayâ€™s often comparably homogenous landscapes are often a result both of rational forestry focusing on coniferous forest (often with denser and darker forests than in the past as a result) and rational agriculture with little room for edges, fallows and shrub habitats, but also of coniferous colonization as an indirect effect of the abandonment of grazing and mowing.
Restoration in view of history
However, palaeoecology could also be used to study natural vegetation changes and plant epidemics through history, or provide a basis for species inventories, as species sometimes linger in their original habitats, although these are heavily degraded. Furthermore, long-term historical vegetation changes on larger geographical scales could be used to predict how current vegetation could be expected to react to ongoing climate changes.
Text: Tove Hultberg.
Tove is a forest ecologist (PhD), currently working with conservation and restoration at SĂ¶derĂĄsen National Park in southernmost Sweden. Her research has hitherto been focused mainly on temperate broadleaved forest and the development of a cultural landscape in southern Sweden during the last 6000 years.