Mountain Forests


Alpine Forestry

A steep-slope protection forest near Gurtnellen, Switzerland. Any interventions in such forests are costly (Source: P. BRANG).

The management of many Alpine forests is not profitable as they are difficult to access due to their steep slopes. Therefore, the timber can only be harvested using costly cable crane logging. However, since interventions may be needed for particular goals, the question of financing those interventions becomes important. This is of particular relevance in protection forests. The challenges faced in Alpine mountain forests are:

Global climate change will lead to higher average temperatures, higher temperature extremes and, in particular, more pronounced drought periods and heavy rainfall. The most likely climate scenarios suggest, within very short time, a climate which many of the tree species currently in place are unable to cope with. Hence, substantial changes in tree species are likely.
Further Readings & Links
Norway spruce forests near Garmisch, Germany. Windthrow and bark beetles have destroyed large stands, and initiated a new tree generation (Source: P. BRANG).
Drought periods will cause tree mortality, partly associated with insect calamities, in particular affecting the most important Alpine tree species, Norway spruce. Early examples of such developments do already exist.

Mastering these disturbances, mitigating their impacts on human values, and fostering the development of forests adapted to future climate are major challenges in Alpine mountain forests. A too large numbers of browsing ungulates are still a widespread problem in many Alpine mountain forests. Browsing can slow down or prevent tree regeneration, or change successional pathways. This is often not in line with human values. A particular problem exists in protection forests where a continuous renewal of the forest ensures effective and permanent protection.

NRP 48
The Swiss National Research Programme 48 "Landscapes and Habitats of the Alps" resarched Landscape Change from various perspectives. This link will take you to four publications on the main findings of this research project.

A larch forest in the Engadine valley, Switzerland, subject to heavy deer browsing (2002). Deer is able to prevent forest renewal (Source: P. BRANG).
Browsing could heavily influence forest succession after the disturbances which are projected as a result of global climate change. The effects of this are hard to predict, but experience tells that negative effects are likely to prevail.

Another challenge is the increasing pressure on the timber resource. Timber is (as it was several decades ago) increasingly highly valued for energy purposes since it is CO2-neutral, can replace fossil fuels and provides jobs in rural areas. The challenge consists in using the timber resource without compromising other utilisations.

Particular values, e.g. the maintenance of threatened species which require specific stand structures, e.g. capercaillie, may require particular interventions. This is often costly in mountain forests. The challenge is to find efficient ways how to create these structures, and to ensure funding for securing external benefits. This is particularly important in protection forests and for conservation goals.
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