The legacy of management approaches and abandonment on old-growth attributes in hardwood floodplain forests in the Pannonian Ecoregion

László Demeter, Ákos Bede-Fazekas, Zsolt Molnár, Gábor Csicsek, Adrienne Ortmann-Ajkai, Anna Varga, Ábel Molnár, Ferenc Horváth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In the absence of primeval floodplain forests, near-natural remnants are key references for close-to-nature forestry and nature conservation. Old-growth forest characteristics (OGCs) were quantified in 16 managed (rotation or selection) and abandoned semi-natural floodplain forests by taking snapshot inventories of structural features. Principal component analysis revealed a short gradient from closed-canopy managed stands dominated by large trees (mainly oaks) and hornbeams, with less deadwood, to abandoned older stands with more gaps, very large trees and different kinds of deadwood. All the studied forests are mainly in the early and late biostatic phases of forest development, with innovation and degradation phases almost completely absent. Results showed that selection forests had significantly more very large trees compared to rotation stands. The difference in structure between abandoned selection stands and abandoned rotation stands was more pronounced than in their counterparts that are still managed. Based on diameter distribution and the amount of very large trees and deadwood, abandoned selection stands were closest to the structure of natural forests. Selection forests may recover certain OGCs more rapidly than rotation forests. We concluded that after 100–150 years of homogenising rotation forestry, OGCs are slow to develop in just 25 years of non-intervention. Based on our results, we recommend: (i) an increase in the rotation cycle with selective logging in order to restore and maintain OGCs in managed rotation forests and (ii) total abandonment in certain well-preserved, near-natural forests with natural flooding regimes. However, the failure of oak to regenerate naturally remains a challenge.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Forest Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020


  • Central Europe
  • Deadwood
  • Oak-elm-ash forest
  • Rotation forestry
  • Sanitary selection system
  • Stand structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Plant Science

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