The biodiversity of traditional socio-ecological systems: large coppiced woods in Germany (CopWoods)

In this project, we study the relationships between human-induced forest disturbance and biodiversity in a traditionally managed oak-birch coppice landscape in Central Hesse, Germany. Open-country biodiversity in Central Europe often survives in cultural landscapes, managed as socio-ecological systems. With decade-long trends of urbanization, rural outmigration and a loss of traditional knowledge, important components of such systems have been lost. However, landscapes still exist where traditional land management results in large biodiversity benefits. An example for such landscapes are traditionally managed coppiced woods. In Northern Hesse, in the Lahn-Dill-area, a contiguous area of 1,800 ha oak-birch-forest is coppiced by village communities in a very traditional way, nowadays mostly for firewood (picture gallery). Stands are cut down patchily after 18-20 years, which results in a rich mosaic of forest regrowth of young age classes.

Our main aims in the project are (i) to quantify the area of lost and remaining coppice using historical maps and remote sensing, (ii) to reconstruct bird population trends over the past 200 years in responses to forest management change, and (iii) to assess the factors (habitat patch size and isolation, habitat quality) that govern distribution and abundance of insects in remaining coppice landscapes, focusing on butterfies (especially Satyrium ilicis) and moths.

New paper: Coppice loss and persistence in Germany