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Short-Rotation Coppice Managed According to Ecological Guidelines

What Are the Benefits for Phytodiversity?

authored by
Felix Zitzmann, Michael Rode

In recent years, the impact of short-rotation coppice (SRC) on biodiversity has been a regular subject of research and ecological guidelines have been developed to make biomass cultivation on SRC more compatible with biodiversity concerns. However, since these guidelines are only implemented voluntarily by farmers, there are barely any SRC that are managed according to ecological guidelines. Consequently, knowledge about their importance for farmland biodiversity and about the impact of different measures for increasing biodiversity remains scarce. Therefore, three experimental SRC, which are managed according to ecological guidelines and thus include stands of different tree species (varieties of poplar (Populus) and willow (Salix), rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), silver birch (Betula pendula)) and different growth-stages within the same site, were investigated with regard to their importance as habitat for vascular plants. Species numbers and species composition were compared with the following habitat types: afforestations (AFO), young (HE-Y) and old hedges (HE-O), field margins (FM) and arable land (AL). Furthermore, different stand types (i.e., stands with different tree species and growth-stages, headlands, clearings) within these SRC were surveyed and compared. Species numbers of SRC were similar to HE-Y, AFO and FM and significantly higher than in AL and HE-O. The composition of plant communities in SRC differed considerably from the other farmland habitats, especially from AL, HE-O and FM. Within the SRC, most stand types had similar species numbers. Only the non-harvested poplar stands were particularly species-poor. Harvesting led to increased species numbers. This increase was significant for the poplar stands but only moderate for the willow stands. With regard to their species composition, the different stand types differed considerably in many cases. We conclude that SRC, which are managed according to ecological guidelines, can be an additional measure to promote phytodiversity in agricultural landscapes as they contain relatively high species numbers (of mainly common and adaptable species) and support distinct plant communities that differ from other farmland habitats. Therefore, measures such as the cultivation of different tree species or sectional harvesting could be offered as agri-environmental schemes to further increase the ecological sustainability of biomass production on SRC.

Institute of Environmental Planning
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