2021 - ongoing
Biodiversity Monitoring South Tyrol (BMS) and forest management – study within the COST Action “Bottoms-UP”
Approximately half of the area of the province of South Tyrol is covered by forest. In addition to providing key ecosystem services (protective function against avalanches, rockfalls and erosion, carbon sequestration and storage, timber, recreation), forest ecosystems play a key role in biodiversity conservation, providing habitats for many animal and plant species, which in turn help maintain the functions and processes of these complex ecosystems. Rapid climate change combined with inadequate past land management puts this complexity at risk with negative effects on biodiversity. For these reasons, monitoring forest ecosystems and their ability to support biodiversity is crucial to understanding how global changes affect these systems and active forest management can improve this function.
In this project, we analyze several forest habitat types across South Tyrol. At all forest sites studied by the long-term project Biodiversity Monitoring South Tyrol, we collect information in a standardized way: qualitative attributes related to cover, forest category and management aspects, and quantitative characters such as the structure and composition of the tree species present, as well as dead wood, dendromicrohabitats – morphological characteristics of trees that constitute habitats for many species – and the biodiversity that inhabits them. This special project within the BMS framework aims at quantifying the capacity of forest stands to accommodate species-specific diversity and how to foster it through active and sustainable management, thereby increasing their resilience to global change.
For each site, forest parameters are collected following the guidelines of the Italian National Forest Inventory. At all selected sites we also apply the standard programs of the Biodiversity Monitoring South Tyrol. The main results of this project are a standardized protocol for monitoring forest sites and an up-to-date picture of sites that are representative of South Tyrol forest ecosystems in terms of species composition, structural characteristics, health status, and degree of management. Since 2022 we also monitor forest and canopy structures using digital canopy photography. The forest survey data combined with the Biodiversity Monitoring data will be integrated into a standardized multitaxon data platform for European forests within the COST Action Bottoms-UP. This European cooperation project foresees (1) the creation of a continental database on forest biodiversity, (2) the elaboration of sustainable management indicators and (3) the drafting of management guidelines to be applied mainly in forest certification and protected areas. The results will be achieved on a European scale and our special project contributes to the inclusion of Alpine forests among European forest ecosystems.
The Biodiversity Monitoring South Tyrol was launched on the initiative of the government of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano-Südtirol and is conducted by the Institute for Alpine Environment of Eurac Research. This special project is financed under the BMS initiative in cooperation with the COST Action Bottoms-UP and the REINFORCE project. We also thank the Forest Planning Office of the Autonomous Province of South Tyrol.
Project team and collaborators
- Chiara Paniccia Eurac Research
- Andreas Hilpold Eurac Research
- Nikolaus Obojes Eurac Research
- Francesco Chianucci National Forestry Research Centre (CREA-FL)
- Anouk Von Meijenfeldt Eurac Research / Wageningen University - Internship/MSc student (Topic: Detecting forest structure characteristics with canopy photography)
- Francesca Rigo Eurac Research / Wageningen University - MSc student (Topic: Forest characteristics influence bat and bird diversity in the Italian Alps)
Past interns and field assistants
- Maria Suarez-Munoz University of Granada - Visiting Ph.D. student on Short Term Scientific Mission COST Bottoms-UP (Jul-Oct 2021)
- Michela Ferrari ETH Zurich - Trainee and field assistant (Oct-Nov 2021)