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8.02.02 - Forest biodiversity and resilience


John Devaney, Ireland


Bastien Castagneyrol, France

Martin Gossner, Switzerland

Ines Ibanez, United States

About Unit

Higher biodiversity in forests has been shown to positively influence multiple ecosystem services. However, globally, forest diversity is declining due to widespread deforestation, degradation and fragmentation. Consequently, there is widespread concern over a potentially dramatic degradation of forest ecosystem functioning and service provision. In particular, the ability of forests to resist and recover from disturbance, i.e., their resilience, may be jeopardized if biodiversity continues to decline. Indeed, the rapid pace of global change is altering disturbance regimes in forests (e.g. wildfires, droughts, disease). Thus, identifying relationships between forest biodiversity and resilience to global change has become a major challenge in forest science.

This research group encourages and supports co-operation among forest scientists with the aim of quantifying the relationships between forest compositional, structural, and functional diversity and resilience.

Specific objectives of the unit are

  • to improve our understanding of how forest diversity impacts resistance and resilience to natural and anthropogenic disturbances
  • to develop and understand indicators of forest resilience
  • to improve our understanding of how forest diversity can be managed to improve resilience
  • to assess the influence of forest diversity on livelihoods and socio-economic resilience

State of Knowledge

Forest resilience can be defined as the capacity of a forest to resist and absorb disturbance and return, over time, to its pre-disturbance state. Global change factors, such as climate warming, habitat loss, and invasive species introductions are altering the frequency, intensity, and timing of forest disturbances. Despite the widely held belief that diverse forests are more resilient to major disturbances (Thompson et al. 2009), a recent review and meta-analysis (Ibáñez et al, 2019) reported that quantitative assessments of forest diversity-resilience relationships are lacking. For example, although a large body of research has addressed the role of species diversity on forest resistance to disturbance, relatively few studies have attempted to quantify forest resilience post disturbance. Furthermore, evidence on the relationship between forest biodiversity and resilience comes predominantly from studies in Western Europe and North America, with many regions and biomes underrepresented. Thus, many key questions remain unanswered. Should the evaluation of resilience be based on the recovery of key species or whole ecosystems? How can forest diversity be managed to enhance resilience? Does forest diversity contribute to the resilience of forest-based livelihoods and socio-economic activity following major disturbances? Working party 8.02.02 aims to address knowledge gaps by bringing together forest scientists from around the world to discuss forest biodiversity-resilience relationships and support collaborative research.