Senior Director Conservation Science and Strategies The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Background/Question/Methods An increased focus and concern about how forests are managed and the ongoing effects of climate change, has resulted in increased attention to the concept of resilience. A nested-hierarchical interpretation of resilience derives from the hierarchical nature of forest ecosystems where engineering resilience is nested inside ecological resilience, which in turn is nested inside social-ecological resilience.
The term panarchy describes a hierarchical structure where forest systems operate at different scales with interlinked functions and processes across scales in never-ending adaptive cycles of growth, accumulation, restructuring and renewal. Although forest systems can be characterized by its species composition, it is how these species interact with each other what will ultimately affect its resilience. The loss of highly connected species could thus trigger cascade effects magnifying the effects of its extinction. As a result, we could construct a syllogism involving resilience and biodiversity on the premises that biodiversity is linked to forest ecosystem functions, and that forest ecosystem functions correlate with forests resilience. From these premises we can conclude that increasing diversity in managed forests could result in well-functioning resilient forests, at least to a certain unknown threshold.
Results/Conclusions The Functional Complex Network approach uses functional traits and network theory as pillars for its development. In this theoretical framework, forest patches/stands are considered nodes forming a network representing the functional complexity of forested ecosystems. A forest manager operating within this paradigm would calculate the functional attributes of each patch/stand within the forested landscape. Then, the spatial structure of the forest-land network would be considered to determine how different patches are connected regarding seed dispersal and tree establishment capacity to form functional links. Thus, the functional diversity of the forest landscape and its spatial structure are described by this functional network.
The biggest challenge for this approach resides on the scalability of its implementation. At the landscape level, the complexity in ecological and social elements is a hurdle very difficult to overcome. It is here where we see forest certification programs offering a viable path to the implementation of the functional complex network approach to forest management.