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Europe's forgotten forests could be 21st century 'biodiversity hot spots'

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By Utah State University

An overlooked and long-neglected type of forest has vast capacity to rebound, enhancing species diversity and resilience to climate change, according to an international team of forest scientists.

According to new research, published in PLOS ONE, there is ample habitat for the Eurasian aspen, and these environments will continue to be suitable for this "keystone species" as the global climate warms.

"The Eurasian aspen, and aspen species globally, are home to vast populations of other dependent plants and animals," said the study's lead author, Antonin Kusbach, an applied ecologist at Mendel University in Brno, Czechia, also known as the Czech Republic, where the team's research was conducted.

"Additionally, aspen systems regenerate and colonize new areas quickly, so these types of forests are ideally adaptive to increased forest disturbances like fire, diseases, insect infestations, and windstorms, that are widely anticipated under climate warming scenarios."

The scientists conducted a survey of more than four million forest locations using field measurements, remote sensing technology, and sophisticated analytical techniques to better understand historic and potential aspen habitat, termed the "realized niche," across all of Czechia's forest terrain, which are similar in make-up to forests throughout central Europe. Aspen forests were once far more widespread across these regions, but commercial forestry, usually favoring monotypic stands of desired conifer species, have altered these habitats.


Friday, March 29, 2024