Conservation biology

Last changed: 23 November 2020

We conduct research in conservation biology, vegetation history and plant-animal interactions - all within the context of the forest ecosystem.

Our conservation research focuses on the effects of forest management decisions on habitat availability in Sweden’s production and protected forest lands. It includes the choice and diversity of production tree species grown, stand rotation length and the combined effects of production intensity and “general considerations” (e.g. green tree retention) on habitat in conifer-dominated forestry.

We also conduct research on how the density of the production forest affects the field layer in coniferous and deciduous forests, and how these effects interact with climate change. Another key area of our research is the interactions between large herbivores and production trees, and how strategies can be developed to ensure both the availability of forage for game species and minimize damage to production forests.

Our research into forest history reconstructs past fire dynamics, tree species composition and human impacts on forest lands, with this knowledge essential to current efforts to preserve forest biodiversity.


Click the tabs below to know more about our research projects!

Longtime effects on conservation actions

Conservation actions during final harvest - is the effect left when the forest has grown up?

For several decades, an increased amount of substrates for biodiversity has been left at final harvest, such as high stumps (snags) and old trees (so-called eternal trees). The aim of the project is to survey the bird fauna in 16 spruce stands with broadleaved trees left during clear-cutting in the 90s, and compare these with stands without any trees left.

The stands have been found using orthophotos (aerial photographs) from the early 1990s, where modern photos (and field visits) have confirmed that the trees remain today.

The stands will hopefully be used also by other researchers for surveys of other organism groups, e.g. lichens.


Link to CV

Balancing biodiversity and climate change mitigation goals

Hitting the sweet spot: Balancing biodiversity and climate change mitigation goals in production forests

Forest biomass provides the majority of Sweden’s renewable energy, and more intensive forestry is advocated to help mitigate climate change.

However, Sweden’s production forests are also essential to biodiversity conservation, due to both the habitat contribution of the production forest itself, and the conservation actions nested within.

The aim of this project is to identify sweet spots for decision makers trying to resolve these potentially conflicting objectives, and thus provide a pathway to a fossil-free future that won’t cost Sweden’s natural heritage.


Link to CV

The forestREplot network

Resurveys of historical vegetation plots are invaluable to document patterns of change in community composition and diversity. They are also useful to better understand impacts of multiple and interacting global-change drivers.

forestREplot  is a research network working with a database of forest herb layer resurvey plots, spread across the temperate zones of Europe and North America. The database is used to quantify changes in herb layer composition and forest functioning, and to assess the effects of global environmental changes such as nitrogen deposition and climate change.

Our research group is contributing three data sets to the network, including the data with the longest time series (1935-2019), and the data with the most frequent annual re-surveys (1988-2008).


Link to CV

The puzzle of forestry and ungulate interactions

The puzzle of forestry and ungulate interactions – a missing piece is in the understory (ERICA)

Dwarf-shrubs, including bilberry (blueberry), cowberry, and heather, often dominate understory vegetation at northern latitudes. These plant species provide a range of ecosystem services and essential food resources for populations of wild large herbivores such as moose and deer (cervids).

Over recent decades however dwarf shrubs in total have experienced a decline in Sweden. In addition to the direct ecological implications, this decline raises specific concerns regarding the resultant impacts on these large herbivores and the damage they can cause to trees in young production stands.

In this study we investigate how dwarf shrub cover translates into edible biomass and nutrition under distinct forest conditions; and how production forest alternatives change the landscape’s food resources for cervids over time.


Link to CV

Trees and climate on forest ecosystem processes

Bloom and buzz – Deciphering the interactions between trees and climate on forest ecosystem processes

Interactions between macroclimate and forest tree canopies drive many of the ecosystem processes which dictate the development of understorey species distributions, and the related ecosystem services.

However, despite their importance, current knowledge is insufficient to allow managers and policy makers to accurately project the combined implications of tree species composition and climate for understorey communities, and the potential for refugia and dispersal barriers, as well as phenology mismatches, to develop under alternative future climates.

To fill these knowledge gaps, we will use a trans-European network of temperature observation sites in forest understories to establish cameras and traps for surveillance of plants and pollinators, and translocate plants adapted to colder climates.


Link to CV

Carbon balance and methods for estimation in young forests

Forests ecosystems have a critical role in the global carbon cycle. Eddy covariance methods enhance our understanding of the forest carbon cycle. Tree-ring methods provide also an alternative approach for assessing forest productivity with annual estimates of tree biomass increments from individual tree measurements.

Our specific objective is to characterize the relationship between annual tree biomass increment (tree-ring increments) and annual net ecosystem productivity (eddy covariance measurements) by means of biometric equations in young forests in the boreal region.

Jaime Uria Diez,

Dendrochronological reconstructions of fire histories

Going back to advance forward: dendrochronological reconstructions of fire histories across Northern Hemisphere boreal and temperate forests.

Natural disturbances are the pivotal factor of the forest dynamics and understanding its multi-century histories is critical to correctly relate the current states of the forests with its biodiversity metrics.

Dendrochronological methods (i.e. those based on the analyses of tree rings) help us decipher and analyze such disturbance histories at the scale of the single stands, landscapes and even sub-continents.

Dendrochronological laboratory of SLU at Alnarp coordinates a number of research networks which study disturbance histories, primarily forest fire histories, in the boreal and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. These include consortium PREREAL and the networks NordicProxy and GDRI Cold forests.

Igor Drobyshev,

Link to CV


Matts Lindbladh, Professor
Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre, SLU, +46 40 415196