The ecological impact of continental scale land-use policies that influence forest management is often difficult to quantify. European forest conservation began in 1909 with a marked increase in designated areas with the inception of Natura 2000 in the early 1990s. It has been shown that increases in European forest mortality may be linked to climate variability. Measuring productivity response to climate variability may be a valid proxy indicating a forest’s ability to bear this disturbance. Net Primary Production (NPP) response to climate variability has also been linked to functional diversity within forests. Using a European specific annual MODIS NPP estimates, we assess the NPP response to climate variability differences between actively managed forests, which experience human interventions and conserved, Protected Area (PA) forests with minimal to no human impact. We found, on the continental scale, little to no differences in NPP response between managed and conserved forests. However, on the regional scale, differences emerge that are driven by the historic forest management practices and the potential speciation of the area. Northern PA forests show the same NPP response to climate variability as their actively managed counter parts. PA forests tend to have less NPP response to climate variability in the South and in older conserved forests. As the time a forest has been designated, as a PA, extends past its typically actively managed rotation length, greater differences begin to emerge between the two management types.
Adam Moreno, Mathias Neumann, Phillip M. Mohebalian