Landscape-scale simulation experiments test Romanian and Swiss management guidelines for mountain pasture-woodland habitat diversity

Distinct guidelines have been proposed in Romania and Switzerland for the management of pasture woodlands that either focused on the regulation of grazing pressure (Romanian production perspective) or overall tree cover (Swiss conservation perspective). However, the landscape structural diversity and the cover of forest-grassland ecotones, which are both crucial for nature conservation value, were not explicitly considered. We aimed to compare the country-specific management guidelines regarding their efficiency for the conservation of the structurally diverse forest-grassland mosaics in the light of recent land-use and climate change. In strategic simulation experiments using the process-based model of pasture-woodland ecosystems WoodPaM, we analyzed the relationships among drivers for the formation of mosaic patterns (grazing intensity, climate change) and the resulting landscape properties (tree cover, forest-grassland ecotones, mosaic structure) during the past until today (2000 AD). The results showed that tree canopy densification following recent climate warming is likely to trigger landscape structural shifts. Medium grazing pressure promoted the development of the full range of pasture-woodland habitats and is therefore confirmed as a management strategy that balances agronomic demands and nature conservation value. Tree cover is rejected as a criteria to monitor pasture-woodland conservation status, because its relationship to landscape structural diversity and to the cover of forest grassland ecotones did not hold for changing climate. Our results suggest "experimental-retrospective" analysis as a useful tool to test conclusions from expert knowledge. (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Published in:
Ecological Modelling, 330, 41-49
Amsterdam, Elsevier

 Record created 2016-04-12, last modified 2018-01-28

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