Core project 6: Forest structure - Properties, structure and management of the forest experimental plots

Scientific investigators:

Prof. Dr. Christian Ammer

Dr. Peter Schall

Dr. Martin Ehbrecht

Karl-Heinz Heine

Andreas Parth

Michael Unger

(Uni Göttingen)

Forests are characterized by a highly variable compositional and spatial structure being extremely important for various ecological processes and availability of resources and habitats. However, the specific structure of a forest stand is changed by stand development due to tree growth, ageing and competition, disturbances, and by forest management. Silvicultural interventions may do both, homogenize or diversify stand structure. Therefore, the assessment of stand structure and its quantitative description are crucial for understanding the impact of forest management on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.

The forests of the Exploratories differ in respect to regeneration method employed, tree species mixture, developmental phase, age structure, layering and patchiness. The managed forests of the Exploratories cover the entire spectrum from planted, even-aged, single-layered, monoculture stands of conifers (spruce or pine) via naturally regenerated, even-aged, single or double layered monoculture stands of broadleaves (beech or oak) of various developmental phases to even-aged man-made mixed forests and uneven-aged beech forests. Additionally, pure and mixed forests dominated by European beech which have been unmanaged since some decades are studied.


Research focus

Within the framework of the Exploratories, this project serves to provide quantitative data for all experimental plots on 1) attributes of forest structure, 2) changes in attributes of forest structure due to forest management and natural processes, 3) stand development and productivity, 4) type and magnitude of forest management interventions, 5) deadwood amount and composition, and 6) abundance of tree microhabitats. This information may serve as explanatory variables for all teams working on functional biodiversity at the level of specific species, functional groups or multidiversity.

Additionally, we will further develop existing approaches of quantifying forest management intensity in order to analyse the relationship between forest structure and land use intensity.



Our work is strongly based on inventories. That is, we locate, count and measure the objects of interest, be it living trees, dead wood items or habitats. Repeated inventories serve to quantify temporal changes, like tree growth or dead wood accumulation. Additionally, we rely on terrestrial laser scanning.


Work packages

In the previous phase (4th phase, 2014 - 2017) we:

  • completed and processed the initial large trees inventory (2nd and 3rd phase)
  • duelled terrestrial and airborne data
  • conducted the repeated large trees inventory (70453 trees)
  • inventoried small trees (dbh < 7 cm, 97177 trees)
  • measured browsing damage (14990 trees)
  • provided data on forest characteristics, stand structure and LUI
  • quantified forest growth, tree harvests and other causes of tree mortality

In this phase (5th phase, 2017 - 2020) we will:

  • survey dead wood items
  • survey tree microhabitats
  • monitor browsing damage
  • analyse temporal changes in stand structure and land use intensity


Project in previous phases

Further project contribution of Prof. Christian Ammer: KnowledgeTransferProject

Previous project contribution of Prof. Christian Ammer: SHAPE, Neighbor

Previous project contribution of Dr. Peter Schall: Neighbor