Using lidar to assess the development of structural diversity in forests undergoing passive rewilding in temperate Northern Europe

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Forested areas are increasing across Europe, driven by both reforestation programs and farmland abandonment. While tree planting remains the standard reforestation strategy, there is increased interest in spontaneous regeneration as a cost-effective method with equal or potentially greater benefits. Furthermore, expanding areas of already established forests are left for passive rewilding to promote biodiversity conservation. Effective and objective methods are needed for monitoring and analyzing the development of forest structure under these management scenarios, with airborne laser scanning (lidar: light detection and ranging) being a promising methodology. Here, we assess the structural characteristics and development of unmanaged forests and 28- to 78-year old spontaneously regenerated forests on former agricultural land, relative to managed forests of similar age in Denmark, using 25 lidar-derived metrics in 10- and 30-m grid cells. We analyzed the lidar-derived cell values in a principal component analysis (PCA) and interpreted the axes ecologically, in conjunction with pairwise tests of median and variance of PCA-values for each forest. Spontaneously regenerated forest in general had increased structural heterogeneity compared to planted and managed forests. Furthermore, structural heterogeneity kept increasing in spontaneously regenerated forest across the maximal 78-year timespan investigated. Natural disturbances showed strong impacts on vegetation structure, leading to both structural homogeneity and heterogeneity. The results illustrate the utility of passive rewilding for generating structurally heterogeneous forested nature areas, and the utility of lidar surveys for monitoring and interpreting structural development of such forests.

OriginalsprogEngelsk
Artikelnummer6219
TidsskriftPeerJ
Vol/bind6
Antal sider20
ISSN2167-8359
DOI
StatusUdgivet - 14 jan. 2019

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