Beech Forest management of the high Karst of Slovenia

During the BEECH POWER workshop on sustainable forest management that took place on 24th-25th of March, Špela Koblar from the Slovenia Forest Service, gave an interesting presentation about the management in beech (fir-beech forest) of the high Karst of Slovenia. The presentation started with an overview of the Slovenian Dinaric Karst plateau characteristics, followed by a tour through the history of the forest management of the region.

Knowing the past to understand the present

Starting in the Middle Ages, the plateau suffered radical deforestation for economic reasons. On the one hand, timber was highly demand for the mercury mine in Idria. On the other hand, in the Mediterranean basin, cities like Venice also increased their wood demands for ship building, construction and firewood. This context of intense clear-cutting caused severe deforestation, erosion (intensified by strong bore wind), and almost desertification of the low karst region. With the objective of restoring the devastated landscape, in 1842 Ressel tried to achieve reforestation by using acorns, but it proved unsuccessful. Later on, in 1859 the first successful restoration occurred, using Austrian pine, followed by a large-scale reforestation project. All these events lead decision makers to establish more stable and sustainable forest management on the areas where the natural forest was still present.

Therefore, in the 1940s and 1950s, almost all foresters in the Dinaric Mountains refused the clear-cut system and use the unique selection system of forest management, established by Dr. Leopold Hufnagl. Another key forester was Henrich Schollmayer, manager of the Snežnik Forest, who in 1906 issued the instructions for stand inventory, goals and measures setting. He also introduced the “control method” and prepared the forest management plan. In 1950s Prof. Dr. Dušan Mlinšek introduced the practice of close-to-nature management. Finally, in 1971 the first regional management plans for all Slovene forests were implemented.

Present management of the forest

Today, the management of the forest is based in three main principals: sustainability, close-to-nature management and multifunctional forests. Management plans also take into account forest services (ecological, social and productive) to adjust the silviculture system, intensity of harvesting and social functions. As mentioned, another principle of today’s management is the principle close-to-nature, which emphasizes the importance of manage the forest mimicking natural processes and structures recognized in forest with similar site and stand conditions.

Most forests in Slovenia (70,7%) are found in Natura 2000 areas. Thus, Natura 2000 demands and guidelines are also being integrated into the forest and wildlife management plan. Further, measures like forest reserves, protective forests and set aside patches are implemented to increase biodiversity.