The functional complex network approach to foster forest resilience to global changes


Human impacts on Earth’s ecosystems have greatly intensified in the last decades. This is reflected in unexpected disturbance events, as well as new and increasing socio-economic demands, all of which are affecting the resilience of forest ecosystems worldwide and the provision of important ecosystem services. This Anthropocene era is forcing us to reconsider past and current forest management and silvicultural practices, and search for new ones that are more flexible and better at dealing with the increasing uncertainty brought about by these accelerating and cumulative global changes. Here, we briefly review the focus and limitations of past and current forest management and silvicultural practices mainly as developed in Europe and North America. We then discuss some recent promising concepts, such as managing forests as complex adaptive systems, and approaches based on resilience, functional diversity, assisted migration and multi-species plantations, to propose a novel approach to integrate the functionality of species-traits into a functional complex network approach as a flexible and multi-scale way to manage forests for the Anthropocene. This approach takes into consideration the high level of uncertainty associated with future environmental and societal changes. It relies on the quantification and dynamic monitoring of functional diversity and complex network indices to manage forests as a functional complex network. Using this novel approach, the most efficient forest management and silvicultural practices can be determined, as well as where, at what scale, and at what intensity landscape-scale resistance, resilience and adaptive capacity of forests to global changes can be improved.

Forest Ecosystems 6(21)