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Middle ground between unlogged forest and intensively managed lands
by Staff Writers
London, UK (SPX) Mar 25, 2013


This picture shows an example of retention forestry in Sweden. Credit: Jean-Michel Roberge.

It is increasingly recognized that protected areas alone are not sufficient for successful biodiversity conservation, and that management of production areas (e.g. forestry and agricultural land) plays a crucial role in that respect. Retention forestry and agroforestry are two land management systems aiming to reconcile the production of human goods with biodiversity conservation.

The retention forestry model is, as the name suggests, based on retaining some of the local forest structures when harvesting trees in an attempt to preserve local biodiversity. Agroforestry addresses this need through the intentional management of shade trees alongside agricultural crops.

Despite the technical differences, both systems provide an intermediary between unlogged forest and intensively managed land. A paper recently published in the open access journal Nature Conservation, draws an important parallel between the two systems.

From a conservation point of view, both retention forestry and agroforestry are expected to provide a variety of ecological benefits, such as the maintenance and restoration of ecosystem heterogeneity. They also provide habitat for tree-dependent species outside the forest as well as increased connectivity for forest species within landscapes.

Moreover, both systems minimize some of the off-site impacts of management. In spite of some inherent differences between the two systems, the large number of similarities suggests that both would benefit from a bridging of scientific and practical experiences.

The author team, led by Dr. Roberge from the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), calls for studies addressing cost-effectiveness of different retention and agroforestry systems in relation to biodiversity conservation, argues for a stronger focus on the two systems' effects on species of special conservation concern, and encourages increased collaboration between researchers and practitioners across the two fields.

Roberge J-M, Monkkonen M, Toivanen T, Kotiaho JS (2013) Retention forestry and biodiversity conservation: a parallel with agroforestry. Nature Conservation 4: 29, doi: 10.3897/natureconservation.4.5116

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