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Plant Sociology numero 55 (2)

pag. 9-30: Assessing the conservation value of forests: the redefinition of the Forest Status Quality indicator in a multiscale approach and its application in northern Italy (Lombardy)

S. Assini1, M.G. Albanesi2 & M. Barcella1

1Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Pavia, Italy.

2Department of Electrical, Computer and Biomedical Engineering, University of Pavia, Italy.

doi: 10.7338/pls2018552/02

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abstract

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the Forest Status Quality (FSQ) indicator, which has been recently formulated in literature, using a new multiscale approach. The FSQ indicator combines the floristic composition (derived, in the present manuscript, from 81 phytosociological tables composed of 484 phytosociological relevés, distributed in 278 localities and 10 provinces of the Region Lombardy) and the stratification of the considered forest types in a unique value, also considering the size of the forest patches.We apply the new theoretical framework to a real case study (Lombardy, in the northern part of Italy) with the aim of: (i) assessing the forest conservation value at different territorial levels: Municipality, Province, and Phytogeographical belt, and (ii) exploring the management implications of our results. At the first level of multiscale analysis, we have very detailed information, with a very good differentiation among municipalities, as proved by the statistical analysis of the resulting data. At the intermediate multiscale level, we have too generic information with a very little difference among provinces. At regional phytogeographical level, the highest resolution of the multiscale analysis, we have information expressing a global forest quality for a wide territory, but with still a good differentiation among phytogeographical belts. The proposed indicator allows also to define the forest types obtaining the best evaluation and thus considered of high conservation concern (we call them the Top forests). The resulted Top forests are the 27% of the total number of assessed forest types. In mountain areas, generally, forests are well preserved and the major efforts in the management of protected areas should be directed to the conservation of other ecosystems (grasslands and/or shrublands), while in the plain and low hilly areas, a particular attention should be dedicated to the restoration of woods. Furthermore, we propose detailed policies of habitat restoration and requalification for each one of the five classes of forest quality: in particular, for class 1 and 2, forest restoration is mandatory, for class 3 and 4 the attention is focused on the conservation of existing forests, while for class 5 restoration of other habitats is highly suggested. A further application of the FSQ could be considered in the monitoring of forest habitats (according to the Habitat Directive), particularly in the SCIs of the Natura 2000 network.

keywords

alien/protected species, computer assisted data analysis, forest quality indicator, Geographical Information Systems (GIS), multiscale spatial analysis, vertical stratification