Introduction Print E-mail
The years after 1989 saw changes in the ownership of forest property. Large areas of forests were returned to their original owners. A major part of those is constituted by small owners with forest property which does not allow a balanced management in a short-term and medium-term time horizon, or such management is limited. Recently, nature conservation has been promoting a distinct general trend to extend rotation periods (even in production forests). This demand is substantiated by the claim that older stands are more structured and are characterized by a higher biodiversity.

However, the Central European landscape has been subject to long-term human impact. As a result, vast areas have been deforested and the structure of forest stands which were directly affected by man has changed. Lowland and upland forests which were subject to direct human impact gradually opened up. They were used intensively for timber harvesting and cattle grazing. Both flora and fauna adapted to this situation. Along with the emerging forest management planning, the intensive and disorganized use was gradually replaced with organized forest management of coppice, later coppice-with-standards forests. This type of forests produced a larger volume of wood mass which was utilized as fuel. Another decisive factor was the general demand for thinner timber which was easily processible. Tools enabling the sawing of larger-diameter assortments were virtually inaccessible for common users then.

With the discovery of fossil fuels (coal) and the improved technologies of timber processing in the times of the Industrial Revolution, the structure of demand changed. Fuel wood was no longer demanded, the sawing of larger-diameter assortments did not pose a problem anymore. As a result, coppice forests gradually disappeared, as they were transformed into high forests. In relation with this trend, the spatial structure of newly planted forest elements changed (was simplified). Direct stand conversion has become a standard method of forest management (regeneration strategy) in the last 40 – 50 years.

The decreasing extent of coppice forests has had a significant impact on the biodiversity as well. At present, biologists notice a gradual decline and extinction of some insect and plant species of light deciduous forests (Konvička M., Čížek L., & Beneš J., 2004: Ohrožený hmyz nížinných lesů: ochrana a management. Sagittaria, Olomouc).

The economic development of a number of countries has stimulated the demand for energies on a global scale. Prices of fossil fuels rise, energy prices follow the trend. The European Union, including the Czech Republic, are not exempt from this trend. The confused energy policy of the recent decades, which has encompassed an intended drop in brown coal mining (territorial limits on mining in Northern Bohemia), the support of electrical heaters followed by a rise in prices of electricity, the support of installation of gas in municipalities and the consequent threat of sharp increase in gas prices and, last but not least, the disputed limits on brown coal mining in Northern Bohemia, all these issues attest to the increasing hunger for energy in our country. One of the answers to such challenges could be the production of biomass intended for energy production. Its sources could be both farmland and forests. Forest production of wood chips or fuel wood could help meet the demand for energy sources.

The key advantages of this solution are the following:
- technically speaking, this type of landscape management has had a long tradition
- this management method does not necessarily contradict the principles of nature conservation
- it can bring major economic contribution for smaller forest owners
- it is a renewable source
- it helps increase the diversity of energy sources

For forest owners, one of the limiting factors of forest management is the maximum total cut which is determined by the exploitation percent and theoretical clearing. The framework forest management directives and the information on rotation periods, regeneration period and the beginning of regeneration included in them are key data for this.

The presently used models of yield tables, which are reflected in the framework forest management directives, do not take into account the possibility of alternative management of coppice forests. Elementary growth characteristics of forest stands of sprout origin are not available. Nor do the regional plans of forest development, which represent some of the key data for the establishment of forest management plans and guidelines, provide any data which might serve as a basis for the model of coppice forest management. With little exception, relevant and up-to-date experience with silvicultural practices and model forest stands are lacking.

As an example of the dismal state of the basic economic, production and legal relations concerning coppice forests can be seen the erroneous model of calculating the monetary compensation for sustaining or establishing coppice forests, as listed in statutory instrument to Section 58 of Act No. 114/92 Coll. Should the intended rotation period drop below a certain level, negative values are obtained through the calculation (Ekologická projekce s.r.o., 2005: Ekonomické aspekty hospodaření v lese ve vazbě na zájmy ochrany přírody pro PR Dománovický les – Economic Aspects of Forest Management in Relation to Nature Conservation in the Domanovicky les Nature Reserve).

Our proposed solution may contribute to the rehabilitation of coppice forests in the conditions of the Czech Republic.

The key principles are the following:
- clarification of the terms coppice forests and their economic and legal aspects
- proposed methods of forest management in theoretical models
- establishment of model sites
- establishment of a free web application for forest owners which clarifies the basic production potential of coppice forests  applied to the owners’ property and consequently the possibility of deciding on the desired method of forest management of the given property
- proposed legislation changes which would facilitate alternative management of coppice forests.

The research project and its presented parameters should result in practical implemented measures for forest management, with basic connection to nature conservation and expert legislation.

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