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Identification of mature forest

Forests’ life cycle (sometimes referred to as “sylvogenetic cycle” or more commonly as “forest dynamics”) comprises several stages along a time line, from its early establishment to maturity and senescence. When observed at the landscape level, a forest in a favourable conservation status should have a mosaic of several or all of these stages.

However, due to the intensity of human uses in the Mediterranean forests since time immemorial, there are very few remaining examples of old-growth forests, free from human interference. In certain types of forests probably there are none such old-growth remnants.

Action B3 is aimed at implementing a protocol for the identification of old-growth (or near-old-growth) forests, which could be used as a reference for assessing the conservation status of the forest habitats in Spain:

  • STAGE 1 – Prospection: It requires a short description, with qualitative or semiquantitative indicators, that may be easily fulfilled by trained personnel. It may be executed by forest specialists and rangers in a first approach to identify candidate forests. 
  • STAGE 2 – Characterization: Quantitative indicators about the forest’s structural properties and human impacts is proposed to characterize each candidate forest stand. This work involves taking measurements on the field. Two alternative methods, based on sampling plots or transects, are proposed.

Sampling protocols and field sheets may be downloaded HERE (Spanish version)

Results from this characterization work throughout Spain are compiled, organized in a data base, and made available on the web by EUROPARC-España members, so that a National Network of Reference Forests is established. Advances in this Network can be checked here.

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