Serious species depletion of Danish forest floors, watchdog warns

Too much commercial forest cultivation is harming the natural ecosystems in many of Denmark’s woods

When it comes to forests and woodland areas, Denmark is rather well off compared to a lot of countries. However, all is not entirely well down in the woods.

A new report from the Danish environment protection agency’s national watchdog NOVANA reveals that the forest floor in a number of the EU-protected forests is showing evidence of species depletion. Signs of this were seen in four of the 10 types of woods that have been looked at, reports DR Nyheder.

The main reason seems to be commercial forestry. Although the forests are on the protected list, it is still permitted to exploit them commercially.

READ ALSO: Getting greener: Denmark to have more pristine forest areas

“We’ve examined the finest and most irreplaceable Danish forests and they are the ones showing the most signs of being cultivated. There are simply fewer habitats and less biodiversity in them,” said one of the authors of the report, senior researcher Rasmus Ejrnæs from Aarhus University.

Not enough light
The problem is that not enough light can reach the forest floor.

“This is a problem because many of the species connected to the forests need sunlight. There are plants that flower on the forest floor and mosses or lichens that grow on tree trunks. When they disappear, it also impacts on animal life,” added Ejrnæs.

Intensive forestry involves trees being planted very close together so that they stand straight and tall and grow evenly. In a natural forest ecosystem, tree growth would be more haphazard and the trees more crooked and broaderwith more branches.

“This gives worse-quality timber, but it does make for a much more varied forest, with a lot more living space for plants, insects and birds,” contended Ejrnæs.

Getting back to nature
The Danmarks Naturfredningsforening nature conservation organisation would like to see more forests left to their own devices.

“If we are to reverse the trend, the number of pristine and unmanaged forests in Denmark must be significantly increased,” said the organisation’s president Maria Reumert Gjerding.

“This could be done either by designating more of the state’s forests as unmanaged forest, but also by making it more attractive for forest owners to accommodate nature. This would demand political will.”