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

R. Seidl, C.S. Eastaugh, K. Kramer, M. Maroschek, C. Reyer, J. Socha, G. Vacchiano, T. Zlatanov, H. Hasenauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


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 multiscale 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)653-666
JournalEuropean Journal of Forest Research
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • individual-based models
  • climate-change impacts
  • global change
  • biome-bgc
  • biogeochemical model
  • adaptive capacity
  • carbon balance
  • use efficiency
  • landscape
  • scales


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