Forest management practices in Spain: Understanding past trends to better face future challenges

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Vadell Guiral, Enric
Pemán García, JesúsPemán García, Jesús - ORCID ID
Verkerk, Pieter Johannes
Erdozain, Matilde
Miguel Magaña, Sergio deMiguel Magaña, Sergio de - ORCID ID
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cc-by-nc (c) Enric Vadell et al., 2022
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Because forests provide a myriad of essential services to society, sustainable forest management that considers and promotes the multifunctional role of forests is of key importance. Understanding how forests have been and are being managed is essential to learn how current forest landscapes have been shaped and how management could be improved to better address all societal needs. Spain makes for an interesting case study due to its dramatic expansion in forest cover over the last 150 years following ambitious national reforestation and afforestation initiatives, as well as for its diversity of forest ecosystems and management approaches. However, a national-level assessment of such a development is currently missing. Therefore, our objective was to document and analyse the development of forest management practices in Spain since the mid-20th century. We developed narratives to describe the trends in 11 indicators of forest management decision-making and practices. Results show that while some decisions have evolved towards promoting multifunctionality (e.g., soil cultivation), others have intensified to maximize production at the expense of other ecosystem services (e.g., naturalness of tree species) and others have not changed much during the past 80 years (e.g., type of regeneration). The analysis also showed that some of the indicators have been conditioned by technological innovations (e.g., machine operation) and by the development of certain policies and legislation (e.g., the application of chemical agents). Based on these trends, we identified the main challenges that forest management in general, and in Spain in particular, may face as well as some decisions that may have to be reconsidered (cutting regime, tree maturity, naturalness of tree species) if the country wants to transition towards alternative silvicultural approaches that promote multifunctionality. In addition, a transition towards mixed-species, uneven-aged forests alongside with genetic improvement of tree species would also facilitate rising to one of the main challenges that forest management faces: to develop a climate-smart forestry that contributes to the mitigation of and adaptation to global change.
Journal or Serie
Forest Ecology and Management, 2022, vol. 524, 120526