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Primeval forest structures and biodiversity: A Swiss-Ukrainian research cooperation

Zusammenarbeit WSL-Ukraine
Scientists from WSL and from Ukraine collaborate to better understand forest ecosystems undisturbed by man.
 
bewaldete Hügel
 
Buchenwald

The Ukrainian Carpathians harbor still more than 200 km2 (20’000 hectares) of primeval forests, most of them are within the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve (CBR). An outstanding example of such a forest undisturbed by man is the primeval forest of Uholka-Shyrokyi Luh (approx. 100 km2), which was inscribed to the UNESCO World Natural Heritage List in 2007, together with some other primeval forest relicts in Slovakia and Ukraine. Beech forests are among the most important forest types of Switzerland. Their structure and biological diversity have been altered, however, by centuries of intensive forest management. Primeval beech forests do not exist anymore in Switzerland. The primeval forests of the Carpathians, which are similar to many forests in Switzerland with regards to tree species composition and growth conditions, are therefore of high interest to WSL as research and reference objects.

The WSL has been collaborating with the CBR and other Ukrainian research institutes and universities since 1999. The general aims of this research cooperation are:

  • to network experts and to encourage collaboration and scientific exchange in the field of primeval forest and biodiversity research;
  • to carry out joint research projects to obtain new insights into the structures, dynamics and diversity of natural ecosystems undisturbed by man;
  • to harmonize research and inventory methods to facilitate the exchange and comparability of data and results;
  • to strengthen the mid-level academic staff and promote young researchers;
  • to raise publicity and awareness of the Ukrainian primeval forests to ensure their long-term protection;
  • to foster a sustainable, nature-oriented forest management.

Partners

  • Carpathian Biosphere Reserve (CBR) http://cbr.nature.org.ua/, Rakhiv
  • Ukrainian National Forestry University (UNFU), Lviv
  • Ukrainian Research Institute for Mountain Forestry (URIMF), Ivano-Frankivsk
  • Uzhgorod State University, Biological Department
  • M.G. Kholodny Institute of Botany National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
  • Institute of Ecology of the Carpathians, Lviv

Financial support

2008-2012: State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI

2005-2008: Swiss National Science Foundation SNFS (SCOPES Institutional Partnership IB74A0-111087)

2002-2003: Swiss National Science Foundation SNFS (SCOPES Institutional Partnership 7IP 062590)

2000-2003: Velux Foundation

Coordination and contact person

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News

The conference “Primeval Beech Forests - Reference Systems for the Management and Conservation of Biodiversity, Forest Resources and Ecosystem Services” (2-5 June 2013, L’viv, Ukraine) organised by the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), the Ukrainian National Forestry University and the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, hosted more than 150 scientists from all over Europe (but also USA and Japan).

http://www.iufro.org/science/divisions/division-1/10000/10100/10107/activities/

Projects

Stichprobeninventur Uholka-Schyrokyj Luh Sampling inventory of the Uholka-Shyrokyi Luh primeval forest

Measurements and assessments on 350 sample plots provide representative data about the basic forest characteristics and structural features of the primeval beech forest Uholka-Shyrokyi Luh (approx. 10’000 ha) within the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve (Ukraine).

   
Störungsregime von Buchenurwäldern Disturbance regime of primeval beech forests

Which role do natural disturbances, such as storms, play in the dynamics of primeval beech forests? We analyse the forest structure and disturbance patterns of the primeval beech forest Uholka-Shyrokyi Luh based on data from terrestrial sampling, high-resolution WorldView-2 stereo satellite images and dendroecological data.

   
Genfluss von Lobaria pulmonaria im Urwaldgebiet Uholka-Shyrokyi Luh Genfluss von Lobaria pulmonaria im Urwaldgebiet Uholka-Shyrokyi Luh
Die Lungenflechte Lobaria pulmonaria ist eine leicht kenntliche, auffällige Blattflechte, welche im Untersuchungsgebiet an Stämmen alter Buchen wächst. Anhand von populationsgenetischen Untersuchungen (pilz- respektive algenspezifische Mikrosatelliten) analysieren wir die  Ausbreitung und Populationsdynamik der Flechte und schliessen auf die funktionelle Vernetzung der altholzreichen Bestände im Urwaldgebiet.
   
Structure and dynamics of virgin and (formerly) managed beech forests Structure and dynamics of virgin and (formerly) managed beech forests
In a joint research project with Ukrainian partners we compare the structures of the virgin beech forest Uholka in Ukraine with those of the Sihlwald near Zurich and assess the development of the Sihlwald from commercial forest back to "virgin forest".
   
Effect of canopy gaps on species assemblages of saproxylic beetles in the Uholka Forest, Ukraine Effect of canopy gaps on species assemblages of saproxylic beetles in the Uholka Forest, Ukraine
Decaying phases, where old trees break down and create canopy gaps, are mostly lacking in managed forests. In Uholka forest, the largest virgin forest of European Beech, we are studying the influence of canopy gaps on saproxylic beetles in terms of diversity, abundance and composition of species assemblages.
   
Arthropod biodiversity in virgin and managed beech forests Arthropod biodiversity in virgin and managed beech forests
Do virgin forests harbour more diverse arthropod taxa than managed forests? Which taxonomic groups or arthropod species may serve as indicators of natural forest ecosystems? Standardized sampling with flight and pitfall traps is used to compare the species richness of virgin and managed beech forests in Ukraine.
   
Occurrence and distribution of Armillaria species (honey fungus) in virgin and managed forests Occurrence and distribution of Armillaria species (honey fungus) in virgin and managed forests
In this study, we investigated the occurrence and ecology of Armillaria species in the unmanaged, virgin forests of the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve in Ukraine. Virgin forests are of interest for researchers because they have preserved their original structure and dynamics. Findings from studying these forests can benefit the close-to-nature management of exploited forests.
   

 

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