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Strict forest reserves in Europe: Efforts to enhance biodiversity and research on forests left for free development in Europe (eu-cost-action e4)

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Original languageEnglish
JournalForestry : the journal of the institute of chartered foresters
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)107-118
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2000


Protected forest areas have become increasingly important and strict forest reserves have an important role to play on two fronts: they are in themselves important protection sites, and they also provide the necessary reference data for nature-based silviculture in production forests. The EU-COST-Action E4 (European Forest Reserves Research Network) underlined their importance and found that there is a wide variation in conceptual approach, historical background, size and share of strict forest reserves throughout Europe. These differences are clearly linked to local forest type and forest history, land use and natural forest dynamics. Moreover, the term 'strict' reserve is interpreted very differently in different countries: in many cases game control, fire control and the removal of invading exotic species are allowed. The concept of complete non-intervention does not seem to be realistic for Europe. The total strictly protected forest area, for the 26 countries involved in COST-E4, is calculated to be nearly 3 million hectares or about 1.7 per cent of the total forest area.

However, subjects, goals, methodologies and constraints for scientific research seem to be strikingly similar throughout Europe. Transboundary co-operation is therefore evident, and needs further promotion. For this purpose, an electronic database on strict reserves, which can be consulted through the Internet at, has been constructed within the framework of the COST action. Judging from the number of visits, it is likely to become an important tool for future scientific co-operation.

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