Current and future status of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) forests in Europe

W. L. Mason, R. Alía

Abstract


There was a major expansion in the area of Scots pine forests in Europe during the twentieth century so that this forest type now exceeds 20 per cent of the productive forest area of the EU. Although the main aim of this expansion was to increase timber production, a wider range of management objectives has become more important during recent decades. These changes may affect the future status and development of Scots pine forests. To analyse the potential impacts, a questionnaire was distributed among the participants in this Concerted Action (CA) to compare the present and future situation in Scots pine forests in different European countries. The results showed the role of Scots pine in different countries of Europe varies from a pioneer plantation species on degraded agricultural land to a dominant component of a native forest ecosystem. There is a general expectation of a move away from simple management systems towards a more complex silviculture based upon greater use of natural regeneration and with a greater diversity of tree species and ages. This move is likely to be more pronounced in central and western Europe where the economic returns from current management are low. These changes are likely to have benefits for biodiversity, particularly where they are accompanied by increased provision of deadwood. Until recently, studies of genetic diversity in Scots pine have laid greatest emphasis on improving growth traits to enhance timber production. There are successful breeding programmes in a number of member states which are reporting potential gains of 10-20 per cent in volume. However, increasing interest is now being given to the conservation of isolated populations which are found under extreme environmental conditions for the species and which have potential importance in the maintenance of genetic diversity. A number of these populations are under threat and action is required to safeguard their future. Despite these changes, Scots pine will continue to be a most important forest species in Europe for the foreseeable future. The anticipated changes in management practices are in line with the recommendations of resolutions on sustainable forest management passed at the 1998 Lisbon Ministerial Conference on Protection of Forests in Europe. The challenge is to develop management systems that are economically viable, but provide the range of non-market benefits required by the needs of sustainable forest management.

Keywords


Scots pine; Silviculture; Genetic Conservation; Future trends





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