Coupling a 3D patch model and a rockfall module to assess rockfall protection in mountain forests

M. Woltjer, W. Rammer, M. Brauner, R. Seidl, G.M.J. Mohren, M.J. Lexer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Many forests in the Alps are acknowledged for protecting objects, such as (rail) roads, against rockfall. However, there is a lack of knowledge on efficient silvicultural strategies and interventions to maintain these forests at optimal protection level. Therefore, assessment tools are required that quantify the rockfall protection effect of forest stands over time, and thereby provide the ability to evaluate the necessity and effect of management interventions. This paper introduces such a tool that consists of a 3D rockfall module embedded in the patch based forest simulator PICUS. The latter is extended for this study with a new regeneration module. In a series of experiments the new combined simulation tool is evaluated with regard to parameter sensitivity, model intercomparison experiments with recently proposed algorithms from the literature, and the ability to respond realistically to different management regimes in rockfall protection forests. Results confirm the potential of the new tool for realistic simulation of rockfall activity in heterogeneous mountain forests, but point at the urgent need to improve the knowledge base on the interaction of understory and rockfall activity. Further work will focus on model validation against empirical rockfall data, and include reduced tree vitality due to damage from boulder collisions as well as the explicit consideration of downed dead wood
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-388
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • climate-change/
  • gap models

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