Recovery and resilience of European temperate forests after large and severe disturbances

Matteo Cerioni, Marek Brabec, Radek Bače, Endijs Bāders, Andrej Bončina, Josef Brůna, Ewa Chećko, Thomas Cordonnier, Johannes H. C. de Koning, Jurij Diaci, Dorota Dobrowolska, Alexander Dountchev, Jeroen Engelhart, Gal Fidej, Marc Fuhr, Matteo Garbarino, Āris Jansons, Srdjan Keren, Māra Kitenberga, Matija KlopčičBohdan Konôpka, Martin Kopecký, Kajar Köster, Stanislav Kucbel, Eric Lacombe, Lisa Laurent, Anja Leyman, Emanuele Lingua, Martin Macek, Zbigniew Maciejewski, Francesco Malandra, Raffaella Marzano, Marek Metslaid, Donato Morresi, Momchil Panayotov, Bogdan Pawlak, Ján Pittner, Vladimír Šebeň, Jarosław Socha, Miroslav Svoboda, Jerzy Szwagrzyk, Nickolay Tsvetanov, Carlo Urbinati, Patrick Vallet, Peter Van de Kerckhove, Kris Vandekerkhove, Jaroslav Vencurik, Alessandro Vitali, Floortje Vodde, Jan Wild, Thomas A. Nagel

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


Recent observations of tree regeneration failures following large and severe disturbances, particularly under warm and dry conditions, have raised concerns about the resilience of forest ecosystems and their recovery dynamics in the face of climate change. We investigated the recovery of temperate forests in Europe after large and severe disturbance events (i.e., resulting in more than 70% canopy loss in patches larger than 1?ha), with a range of one to five decades since the disturbance occurred. The study included 143 sites of different forest types and management practices that had experienced 28 disturbance events, including windthrow (132 sites), fire (six sites), and bark beetle outbreaks (five sites). We focused on assessing post-disturbance tree density, structure, and composition as key indicators of forest resilience. We compared post-disturbance height-weighted densities with site-specific pre-disturbance densities to qualitatively assess the potential for structural and compositional recovery, overall and for dominant tree species, respectively. Additionally, we analyzed the ecological drivers of post-windthrow tree density, such as forest management, topography, and post-disturbance aridity, using a series of generalized additive models. The descriptive results show that European temperate forests have been resilient to past large and severe disturbances and concurrent climate conditions, albeit with lower resilience to high-severity fire compared with other disturbance agents. Across sites and disturbance agents, the potential for structural recovery was greater than that of compositional recovery, with a large proportion of plots becoming dominated by early-successional species after disturbance. The models showed that increasing elevation and salvage logging negatively affect post-windthrow regeneration, particularly for late-successional species, while pioneer species are negatively affected by increasing summer aridity. These findings provide a key baseline for assessing future recovery and resilience following the recent occurrence of widespread disturbance in the region and in anticipation of future conditions characterized by increasing heat and drought stress.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)e17159
Publication statusPublished - 1-Feb-2024

Thematic List 2020

  • Forest

Thematic list

  • Forest management
  • Woods and parks

EWI Biomedical sciences

  • B270-plant-ecology
  • B430-sylviculture

Geographic list

  • Europe

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