In many parts of Europe, the original forest cover has strongly reduced and forests presently occur as small fragments, often embedded in an intensively used agricultural matrix. Despite their small size, these forest patches often act as refugia for biodiversity.
These small fragments may provide a wide range of ecosystem services (ES) to human society. Biodiversity and ES of small forest fragments are mutually dependent as they are determined by a similar set of drivers. However, the nature and strength of the relationships between biodiversity and ES will vary, depending on the taxonomic group and ES under consideration, and on the landscape context including the type and intensity of the surrounding land-use and the land-use history. Moreover, the value attributed to an ES will differ between different regions. All these sources of variation remain largely unknown and their effects on human perception, hence on decisions about management, planning and policy, is poorly understood.
Therefore, the main objective of smallFOREST is to quantify ES and biodiversity in small forest fragments among agricultural landscapes and across different regions in Europe, to analyse how their mutual relationships vary between landscapes and regions and to assess the extent to which ES are valued differently. smallFOREST is built on a unique database covering ~650 forest patches in sixteen 5 km x 5 km landscape sampling windows in southern France, northern France, Belgium, northwestern Germany, northeastern Germany, southern Sweden, central Sweden and Estonia (2 windows per region).
This sample design covers the entire European temperate forest biome through a SW-NE transect.
For each patch standardized data are already available on the occurring vascular plant species, its history, the surrounding land cover, and its spatial characteristics.
During the project, additional data will be collected to quantify the structural, functional and taxonomic biodiversity and to determine a well-chosen set of ES (including provisioning, regulating and cultural services) delivered by the patches.
The valuation of the ES considered will be performed through a combination of local data collection and benefit transfer approaches, using highly innovative tools such as cognitive mapping.