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Ecological and climate changes and regeneration related issues of pedunculate oak forests in Spačva basin

Domestic project

PROGRAMME: Scientific Research Programme 2014 (Croatian Forests Ltd.)

STATUS: Finished
Project start: 01. Oct 2013.
Project end: 01. Oct 2017.
Contract body: Croatian Forests Ltd.


Spačva basin encompasses a variety of lowland habitats where pedunculate oak forest management class occupies 96% of the total area. With its 40.000 hectares,Spačva basin makes it one of the largest coherent complex of lowland Pedunculate oak forests in Europe.

Different environmental pressures directly and indirectly affectthe status of these forests, and sincePedunculate oak is competitive tree species, successful mostly in optimal habitats, it reacts strongly to any changes in environmental factors with changes in growth and development. A great number of long-term research conducted in the area of this complex characterises these changes as negative and directly links them to the problem of Pedunculate oak forests decline.

Research on the complex issues of Spačva forests management in altered site conditions requires a complex approach, therefore activities in the scope of this project are based on a synthesis of several research groups work results. Gained knowledge on specific ecological factors on the area of Spačva basin  (climatic, geological, pedological, hydrological and vegetational) is the result of long-term monitoring of groundwater levels, crown condition, vegetation, seed crops, their interactions and comparisons with recent findings.This kind of insight will help with recognition and definition of stress factors, their critical amplitudes and the possibilities of mitigating theconsequences through improved process of decision making in the scope of adapted management.

Furthermore, research on the role of thinning and other tending interventions in shaping tree crowns and thus in shaping root system together with relationship between size and crown damage with quantity of seed crop will be conducted in the scope of the project. In addition, analysis will encompass current production of pedunculate oakseedlings and the possibilitiesfor application of new methods of quality seedlings production with provenance selection, application of adequate protective agents and analysis of site nutritional potential for plant success. The monitoring of fruiting on experimental plots will provide a good insight into the factors that affect the quantity and quality of acorns the most. In order to identify pedunculate oak provenances, which are tolerant to more arid environmental conditions testing of oak provenance and their physiological reactions,will be carried out through molecular-genetic analysis of plant material using adaptive genetic markers.

Elements of stress, which are initiated by specific harmful organisms,create the conditions for significant tree damage and thus will be investigated in the context of forest protection. The aim is to determine the presence and status of each potential pest and its role in forest regeneration. Regarding the applicationneeds analysis of national legislation and the EU acquis communautaire related to forestry and environment protection will be given while paying particular attention to the restrictions relating to the requirements of FSC certification and conservation measures in Natura 2000 areas. Various alternatives for Natura area management will be tested and analysedin order to provide recommendations for future management whilethe applicability of Analytical network modelwill be tested.

Data on the condition and the annual changes in crown damage of pedunculate oak in the Spačva basincollected during the monitoring on a permanent network of ICP Forests will be compared with other existing data sets (climate data, groundwater levels). Eco hydrological research will be based on the analysis of time series data of the groundwater levels from the network of piezometer stations and analysis of trends and variations of climatic variables from nearby weather stations. In addition to the spatial distribution of the associated soil types, their chemical and physical properties and current pedogenetic processes which are arising from changes in the relationship between the solid and liquid soilphaseswill be examined together with the spatial distribution of heavy metals input, their correlation with the physical and chemical soils properties and their potential biological impact. Since circulation and nutrient uptake presentprocesses, which are critical to the health of the forest ecosystem, studies on deposition of chemical elements, soil solution composition and condition of oak trees nutrition,will be carried out. Vegetation surveys will complement the picture of the ecosystem condition and the direction of the changes that are present within.

Integration of existing data in one information system is the foundation for a systematic analysis of the current situation, construction of projections and analysis of possible scenarios. The system will be complemented with all relevant existing data, which were gathered through long term monitoring as well as monitoring, conducted in this research. This will allow analysis of spatial and temporal dynamics of gathered data through the construction of multilayer cartographic representations.

Results of this research will present a basis for recommendations for climate adaptive and environmentally sound forestry with the aim of preservation ofbiodiversity and auto regulatory mechanisms in the ecosystem.Silvicultural guidelines will be given as an optimized suggestion for the management of Spačva forests.

Besides researchers from Croatian Forest Research Institute (listed under Project team), the project also involves researchers from other instituions:

  • Croatian Forests Ltd – coordinator for Scientific Research Programme from FA Vinkovci, employees of FA Vinkovci, employees of Headquarters,
  • Faculty of Forestry, University of Zagreb – Dr. Marko Vucelja,
  • Forest Research Institute of Baden-Württemberg, Freiburg – Dr.sc. Dounavi Aikaterini,
  • Ruđer Bošković Institute – Dr. Mirna Čurković Perica,
  • Croatian Geological Survey
  • Faculty of Civil Engineering, University of Zagreb – Prof.dr. Neven Kuspilić,
  • State Institute for Nature Protection – Dr. Vladimir Hršak – Natura 2000


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