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Conference Scope

Forests originally covered large parts of the world’s temperate regions, where a significant portion of biodiversity evolved and is associated with forest ecosystems. Unfortunately, temperate forests now belong to one of the most threatened biomes, experiencing high human pressure. Due to extensive historic conversion of forests into agricultural land, ongoing urbanisation and intensification of agriculture, forest ecosystems have gradually been reduced or fragmented, and are currently nearly three times smaller than their original extent. Remaining forests are either intensively managed for forestry purposes or exist as remaining old growth and isolated forest fragments, also under increasing pressure from various anthropogenic factors. In those rare examples of forest systems without active forest management and timber production, anthropogenic factors such as fragmentation, pollution, climate change, changes in the hydrological regime, invasive alien species, and even geopolitical forces can substantially affect ecosystem functioning. Because of all these processes, a substantial portion of forest biodiversity is threatened, many forest species have already gone extinct, and numerous forest-dwelling species are rare and occur exclusively in small old growth forest patches. As such, the biodiversity of temperate forests requires urgent and sustained conservation attention and action.

Halting the decline of forest species and habitats, as well as restoring old growth forests, is recognised as an important goal in combating biodiversity loss and increasing carbon storage capacity to mitigate global climate change. Merely increasing the coverage of temperate forests is not sufficient to preserve forest biodiversity and halt ongoing negative trends. A more holistic understanding of the factors influencing species interactions and hence, the functioning of temperate forest systems is required. This task remains a significant challenge and calls for science-based, cross-disciplinary approaches. While the impacts of specific anthropogenic factors on certain species or species groups are often studied in isolation, many of these factors are intertwined with cumulative and cascading effects on ecosystem functioning. To successfully preserve and restore forest ecosystems, it is crucial to possess (and then mobilise) advanced knowledge in ecology and nature conservation, along with a deep understanding of the intricate processes that shape biodiversity within these ecosystems. Additionally, having access to empirical data on how different factors interact and affect biodiversity in the Anthropocene era is essential. Despite efforts, there is still insufficient integration across scientific fields for a holistic perspective on forest management, forest ecology, restoration, and conservation.

In this context, we are organising a conference on “Temperate Forests in the Anthropocene,” as part of the Białowieża Ecology Conference series, focusing on anthropogenic factors affecting temperate forest ecosystems. The goal of the conference is to exchange and summarise knowledge in the fields of forest ecology and conservation biology, connect researchers working in a variety of scientific fields and discuss practical solutions for more sustainable forest management and biodiversity conservation. We aim to include a variety of research topics to cross-fertilise approaches that yield a better understanding of temperate forests in socioecological contexts. More specifically, we aim to address the following issues:

Human-forest interactions – to discuss how humans in the Anthropocene era have relied and continue to rely on forests for various resources and services such as water, fuel, medicine and food; how human-forest interactions have been changing during the Anthropocene era; how forests are conserved at different scales: local, landscape, national and global; how human health is linked to forests including One Health benefits and risks (e.g., clean air, zoonotic diseases such as borreliosis); and biocultural connections.

Human-wildlife Interactions – to understand the impact of human activities on forests (including wildlife management, hunting, supplementary feeding, recreation and human presence), on wildlife behaviour (temporal activity patterns and space use) and species interactions (intraguild, predator-prey, competition and facilitation).

Invasive Species – to hone in on invasions that affect species interactions and alter forest ecosystem functioning and services.

Physical Barriers – to understand the ecological impact of man-made physical barriers in forests (from roads to fences and border walls).

Climate Change (and Disturbance Regimes) – to discuss how climate change is affecting forest ecosystems, in particular how it alters disturbance regimes and influences over ecosystem functioning, biodiversity, species migration and phenology, vegetation dynamics, and other related aspects.