The conservation status assessment of Natura 2000 forest habitats in Europe: capabilities, potentials and challenges of national forest inventories data

There is a need to improve the consistency of international information concerning the conservation status assessment of the species and habitat types in the Natura 2000 reports. National Forest Inventories could contribute towards a more objective and harmonised assessment although their use shows some challenges as low precision for rare or small area habitats. Recommendations for a set of 12 structural and functional indicators are provided.

Context There are differences among Member States as regards applying conservation status assessment and priorities according to the Directive on the conservation of natural habitats (Habitats Directive).
Aims This paper aims to analyse the consistency as regards forest habitat types reporting and the use and suitability of National Forest Inventories (NFIs) to assess their conservation status, as well as to provide recommendations for harmonised assessments through NFIs.
Methods A survey was carried out concerning the use of NFI data to report within the commitments of the Habitat Directive. The survey covered 13 European countries, accounting for 62% of forest habitat area. Additionally, case studies were carried out in four countries.
Results The identification of forest habitat types and the set of quantitative and/or qualitative indicators differ between countries. The use of NFI data is being considered in seven countries and it is expected to increase for the 2013–2018 reporting period. The main challenges reported of use of NFI data are related to the habitat identification and their mapping, and the monitoring frequency, design and costs (i.e. rare or small area habitats).
Conclusion It is necessary to improve the comparability of the conservation status assessments between countries.

Forest biodiversity, Function and structure indicators, International reporting, Vegetation, Reference value, Thresholds, Harmonination, NFI

Open-Access Publication
Alberdi, I., Nunes, L., Kovac, M. et al. Annals of Forest Science (2019) 76: 34.

Data availability
The datasets generated and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request. The authors are considering to make the dataset available in a public repository upon acceptance from the national responsible of each questionnaire and the Head of each one of the involved National Forest Inventories (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and UK).

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