Trends in the development of mature conifer forests and mechanisms for the conservation of biodiversity in the emerging understory


Summary: Pine forests planted in Israel on barren and deserted land have resulted in mixed forests with diverse understory. However, heavy forest thinning or complete pine felling might lead to the development of a dense oak-dominated monocultures and reduced biodiversity. Understanding the processes promoting the establishment of a native woody understory in relation to the management of pine canopy is essential to predict future co-existence of the species, and to establish knowledge and tools for managing mixed species forests. The primary objectives of this study are to:

1) Produce a quantitative assessment of pine management on the growth, structure, composition and diversity of the understory.

2) Determination of the abiotic mechanisms which control the understory development as shown by growth and composition.

To understand those mechanisms we will study microclimate and biogeochemical cycling as affected by woody species under various developmental stages of mature pine forest. Those stages are part of 50-60 years old forests in the Western Galilee and range from dense to thinned and cleared stands. The history of plots will be studied, and surveys on the recent status of understory composition, structure and plant diversity will be carried out. This research will help improve forest planning and management, while reaching sustainability goals, such as biodiversity, patchiness and rare-species conservation. Furthermore, they will lead to better understanding of the abiotic processes and mechanisms involved in proliferation of the understory. Beyond that, the study can help develop new forest management tools to predict vegetation dynamics and achieve ecosystem sustainability goals.

Co-workers: Kalil Adar (PhD student) Rita Dumbur (Lab technician)

Partner organizations: KKL – Jewish National Fund