Review papers

Coppice forests, or the changeable aspect of things, a review


Abstract


Coppiced forests were the main source of firewood, brushwood, and charcoal for rural and urban settlements’ basic needs such as cooking food and domestic heating for thousands of years and up to the mid-20th century in many European countries and, specifically, in Mediterranean countries. The global diffusion of fossil fuels reduced this leadership and the coppice system turned, to some extent, to a reminder of the past. Nowadays, the ongoing global changes and the related green-economy issues call for resilient systems and effective bio-energy producers. These issues have caused a second turning point and the coppice has returned fifty years later to play a role. A review of the silvicultural system has been carried out with a special focus on the changes which have occurred in between, taking Italy as a consistent case-study. The analysis is mainly framed upon the long-term research trials established by the CREA-Forestry Research Centre in the late sixties, to find out adaptive management strategies and overcome the system’s crisis. The findings and further knowledge achieved so far on the dynamics and functioning of coppice forests in the outgrown phase, both as natural evolutive patterns and silviculture-driven processes, are highlighted in this paper. They provide useful tools to handle the management shift regarding forthcoming issues, i.e. the current role attributable to the coppice system within the changing environment and the renewable energy demand. The basic features of each management area and their complementarities within the current framework are outlined.  


Keywords

silvicultural system; natural dynamics; pro-active silviculture; sustainability; past management; future forestry; Italy

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12899/asr-1286

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