About project

In the last few decades, in Europe as in rest of the world, the interest in the long-term and extensive monitoring of forest ecosystems has intensified. The reason for this is the lack of original, reference and long-term series of data necessary for the evaluation of anthropogenic impact in relation to natural variability. Old-growth forest reserves are recognized as the reference state of naturalness whose monitoring, together with monitoring of other non-economic forests, provides valuable information that helps explaining the natural dynamics and variability of ecosystems. Croatia, in comparison with most Central European countries, has a relatively natural forest ecosystems in terms of species composition, structure and function. There are number of valuable forest areas with characteristics of a natural old-growth forest.

The idea of systematic multidisciplinary, environmental monitoring in Croatia appeared in 1965, but has not been successfully implemented. Based on these ideas, and driven by the growing interest in monitoring changes and dynamics of natural ecosystems, in early 80s the long-term, intensive monitoring plots were established according to the principles of the UNESCO MAB program (Man and the Biosphere Programme). Unfortunately, after the initial establishment, these plots were not systematically monitored. Today approximately half of those plots are in an acceptable condition.

Inspired by the need for better understanding of the natural dynamics of forest ecosystems and the long-term monitoring we propose this project with the aim of establishing a long-term scientific monitoring. It includes revitalization of existing and establishment of new monitoring plots which will, in the end, represent a network of field laboratories where current and future researchers would build their research capacities. The project aims to consolidate knowledge and establish a long-term interdisciplinary research with one common goal – understanding and monitoring the dynamics of forest ecosystems. The project is designed on two levels of intensity: 1) extensive monitoring-EM (I) and 2) intensive monitoring-IM (II). EM would result in the 50-60 plots across the Croatia while five of the most representative old-growth forest sites will be the object of IM. IM should serve as a representative object of research for all plots of an EM, while EM enables the estimation of the extent to which the results of the IM case study can be generalized for the habitat type, the geological substrate, vegetation characteristics and the like.

This by using relatively quick and inexpensive survey indicators, which show the status of ecosystem. The results of this monitoring will be the piece in the European puzzle, but very important to the global understanding of the functioning of natural forest ecosystems. Continuous monitoring and experimental research plots are certainly the best legacy for future generations of scientists, who will with ever evolving technology and methods be able to improve understanding of the complex dynamics of forest ecosystems and thereby contribute their knowledge and ultimately preservation.

Project duration: 01/09/2015 - 31/08/2018

The project is funded: Croatian science foundation (www.hrzz.hr)