Wood-pastures in a traditional rural region of Eastern Europe: Characteristics, management and status

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Wood-pastures are among the oldest land-use types in Europe and have high ecological and cultural importance. They are under rapid decline all over Europe because of changes in land use, tree cutting, and lack of regeneration. In this study we characterized the structure, condition and threats of wood-pastures in a traditional rural region in Romania. Forty-two wood-pastures were surveyed, as well as 15 forest sites for comparison. All wood-pasture sites were described via four groups of variables: condition, management, site, and landscape context. Forest sites were dominated by Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) and Beech (Fagus sylvatica), whereas wood-pastures were dominated by Oak (Quercus sp.) and various species of fruit trees. Most wood-pastures contained trees classified as 'ancient' but no such trees were found in forests. The proportion of dead trees was positively related to forest cover within 300. m around the wood-pasture. Models that included management, site and landscape-related variables best explained the prelevance of Oak, Beech, Hornbeam and Pear trees in wood-pastures. Large oaks and hornbeams were more likely to be dead or affected by uncontrolled pasture burning than small oaks and other tree species. Our results show that ancient wood-pastures are common in this rural region, and they may be more common in Eastern Europe than previously thought. There is an urgent need for research, legal recognition and conservation management of wood-pastures as distinct landscape elements for their cultural, ecological and agricultural importance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiological Conservation
Pages (from-to)267-275
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 01.10.2013