European Beech Forests for the Future: Ecological, economical, and policy analysis of beech forest conservation under the Natura 2000 Network

Lead Research Organisation: University of Stirling
Department Name: Biological and Environmental Sciences


The European beech (Fagus sylvatica) is of fundamental importance for European biodiversity as a diverse array of plants animals and other organisms depend on it. Yet, beech forests cover only a small percentage of their original area and are under increasing pressure due to environmental and socio-economic reasons, such as climate change and growing demand for timber. The EU addresses beech forest conservation through the Natura 2000 protected area network, which obliges its member states to achieve and maintain a 'favourable conservation status' of target habitats including beech forests. The implementation process of Natura 2000, however, has been impaired by conflicts and diverging stakeholder interests regarding forest management. Together with the effects of global climate change, this underlines the need for cross-national governance and conservation strategies. Focusing on Natura 2000, this project aims at developing science-based recommendations on innovative management and conservation approaches as well as multi-level-governance strategies for beech forests in Europe. This objective requires an interdisciplinary approach, which is realized through three complementary work packages (WP). The research will be carried out in a comparative manner in selected countries, which represent the range of European beech forest biodiversity in the countries covered by the call. WP1 (Biodiversity, conservation and management), for which the UK partner has overall responsibility, aims at an analysis of the effects of different management and conservation strategies for beech forest biodiversity employed under Natura 2000. Furthermore, the impacts of global climate change on beech forest ecosystems are assessed. Field studies will be used to assess the impact of the different forest management strategies on intra- and inter-specific diversity in beech forests as well as to evaluate the impact of climate change on beech growth across its range. The ecological and management related data derived from the UK-led WP1 will be combined with data gathered under WP2 by other European partners assessing the governance strategies of Natura 2000 areas, the ecosystem services provided by beech forests and market-based instruments for beech forest conservation. All European partners will then work together under WP3 to develop recommendations on innovative management, conservation and governance strategies for beech forests. All in all, the project will drive scientific advances in the following research fields: The ecology of beech forests and their conservation under changing climatic conditions, multi-level governance of beech forests in Europe, and valuation and marketing of the environmental services beech forests can provide. The results will be used to create a new and comprehensive understanding of the present situation as well as to develop innovative management, conservation and governance strategies to ensure the survival of beech forests and associated biodiversity for future generations.


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Bacles CF (2011) Taking a tree's perspective on forest fragmentation genetics. in Trends in plant science

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Hampe A (2011) Climate Relicts: Past, Present, Future in Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics

Description A core challenge investigated by BeFoFu is related to the compatibility of timber production and nature conservation in managed Natura 2000 areas. While there are synergies between these objectives, some basic con icts do exist. For example, harvesting regimes may change tree species composition in a way that counters conservation objectives, and late
successional stages (with old trees and dead wood) are often removed even though they are highly important for conserving forest speci c biodiversity. Such trade- o s come to the fore when Natura 2000 management is implemented and concrete decisions about spesific stands needs to be made
Exploitation Route Ecological work within the project demonstrates the critical importance of extreme events for shaping the composition of our forests. Composition will changes as the frequency, magnitude and duration of such events changes, however, since 'tipping points' are a fundamental feature of mortality responses to climate, we urgently need more research into 'extreme event' ecology.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description Policy briefs and guidance reports written for IUCN and EFI - see entries elsewhere in this submission for this project
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description Co-authorship of European Forest Institute report and policy advice
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
Description Policy brief in collaboration with BiodivERsA and IUCN: Winkel G, Jump AS and BeFoFu project partners (2014). Natura 2000 and Europe's forests: understanding and tackling implementation challenges. Policy Brief, BiodivERsA policy brief #3,
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
Description Assessing Individual And Local Scale Forest Vulnerability To Mortality From The 2019 Extreme Drought In Central Europe
Amount £52,418 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/V00929X/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2020 
End 08/2021
Description Forth Climate Forest
Amount £324,381 (GBP)
Organisation Woodland Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2023 
End 01/2025
Description NERC standard grant
Amount £795,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/S010041/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2019 
End 05/2022
Description Natura 2000 and forests - assessing the state of implementation and effectiveness
Amount € 120,000 (EUR)
Organisation European Forest Institute 
Sector Public
Country Finland
Start 10/2016 
End 04/2017
Description Impacts of extreme events on tree growth 
Organisation Technical University of Munich
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Currently collaborating on additional data analysis of the data collected under the NERC funded project
Collaborator Contribution Design and implementation of analysis
Impact Submission of NERC ForeSight grant with TUM as a project partner
Start Year 2013
Description EU Policy consultation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Meeting with representatives of industry and EU DG Environment, DG Agriculture and DG industry and Innovation at European Forestry House, Brussels, March 13th 2003 to consult on policy paper in development on modifications to the implementation of the Natura 2000 network. The meeting was convened and chaired by the BiodivERsA BeFoFu project of which this NERC funded project forms part.

See previous
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013