European Journal of Forest Research

, Volume 132, Issue 5–6, pp 653–666 | Cite as

Scaling issues in forest ecosystem management and how to address them with models

  • Rupert Seidl
  • Chris S. Eastaugh
  • Koen Kramer
  • Michael Maroschek
  • Christopher Reyer
  • Jarosław Socha
  • Giorgio Vacchiano
  • Tzvetan Zlatanov
  • Hubert Hasenauer


Scaling is widely recognized as a central issue in ecology. The associated cross-scale interactions and process transmutations make scaling (i.e. a change in spatial or temporal grain and extent) an important issue in understanding ecosystem structure and functioning. Moreover, current concepts of ecosystem stewardship, such as sustainability and resilience, are inherently scale-dependent. The importance of scale and scaling in the context of forest management is likely to further increase in the future because of the growing relevance of ecosystem services beyond timber production. As a result, a consideration of processes both below (e.g. leaf-level carbon uptake in the context of climate change mitigation) and above (e.g. managing for biodiversity conservation at the landscape scale) the traditional focus on the stand level is required in forest ecosystem management. Furthermore, climate change will affect a variety of ecosystem processes across scales, ranging from photosynthesis (tree organs) to disturbance regimes (landscape scale). Assessing potential climate change impacts on ecosystem services thus requires a multi-scale perspective. However, scaling issues have received comparatively little attention in the forest management community to date. Our objectives here are thus first, to synthesize scaling issues relevant to forest management and second, to elucidate ways of dealing with complex scaling problems by highlighting examples of how they can be addressed with ecosystem models. We have focused on three current management issues of particular importance in European forestry: (1) climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration, (2) multi-functional stand management for biodiversity and non-timber goods and services and (3) improving the resilience to natural disturbances. We conclude that taking into account the full spatiotemporal heterogeneity and dynamics of forest ecosystems in management decision-making is likely to make management more robust to increasing environmental and societal pressures. Models can aid this process through explicitly accounting for system dynamics and changing conditions, operationally addressing the complexity of cross-scale interactions and emerging properties. Our synthesis indicates that increased attention to scaling issues can help forest managers to integrate traditional management objectives with emerging concerns for ecosystem services and therefore deserves more attention in forestry.


Scale Scaling Ecosystem modelling Sustainable forest management Multi-scale approach Emergence 



This work is a result of the European Union COST action FP0603 ‘Forest models for research and decision support in sustainable forest management’. R. Seidl received support from an EC FP7 Marie Curie Scholarship (grant agreement 237085). C.S. Eastaugh received support from the Climate and Energy Fund of the Austrian Federal Government (MOTI project, contract K10AC1K00050). K. Kramer was supported by the Dutch Ministry of Economics through the Knowledge Base project DynTerra (KB-IV, 5238828). C. Reyer acknowledges funding from the EC FP7 MOTIVE project (grant agreement 226544). We are grateful to H. Lischke and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rupert Seidl
    • 1
  • Chris S. Eastaugh
    • 1
    • 2
  • Koen Kramer
    • 3
  • Michael Maroschek
    • 1
  • Christopher Reyer
    • 4
    • 5
  • Jarosław Socha
    • 6
  • Giorgio Vacchiano
    • 7
  • Tzvetan Zlatanov
    • 8
  • Hubert Hasenauer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Forest and Soil Sciences, Institute of SilvicultureUniversity of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) ViennaWienAustria
  2. 2.School of Environment, Science and EngineeringSouthern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia
  3. 3.Alterra, Green World ResearchWageningen University and Research CentreWageningenthe Netherlands
  4. 4.Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact ResearchPotsdamGermany
  5. 5.Department of GeographyHumboldt University BerlinBerlinGermany
  6. 6.Department of Biometry and Forest Productivity, Faculty of ForestryUniversity of Agriculture in KrakowKrakowPoland
  7. 7.Department of Agricultural, Forest, and Food Sciences (DISAFA)University of TurinGrugliascoItaly
  8. 8.Department of SilvicultureForest Research InstituteSofiaBulgaria

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