Different approaches to the care of specially protected areas (SPAs) regardless their category represent problematic and fully unresolved issues. This is valid especially for SPAs on land designated for forest functions. Different approaches of the owner/manager of the SPA often interfere with the nature conservation authority whose views on the management of the area are binding. These differences stem from different “view” at the forest and its mission, e.g. concern about the impact of negative care for the SPA on surrounding, often unstable production forests, different understanding of the subject of protection in a SPA (e.g. gene pool protection versus allowing spontaneous development processes), etc. The aim of this section is to define briefly and with respect to practical use basic distinguishing features of “naturalness” (i.e. degree of human influence) of forest stands that are included in SPAs. These definitions will serve as the basis for initial decisions about further management of the area or rather as the foundation for conceptual decisions in nature conservation and forest management.
The importance of assessment
The importance of assessing naturalness of forest stands in SPAs is evident in two basic questions that must be answered for each SPA:
- What is the subject of the protection?
- The definition of the subject of protection is crucial for the declaration of a SPA. Forest land which meets following criteria is selected: It is relatively little affected by man (in this case a segment of the natural forest is protected), or it has been influenced and modified by man for a long time (the protection aims at critically endangered species of flora; the forest as such is seen as a habitat – it is not protected but represents a necessary condition for the species preservation). Naturalness assessment applies in particular to the first option – the forest itself is the subject of protection – and we want to assess its condition to expertly decide on the objectives of protection.
- What is the purpose of the protection?
- The protection in general aims at sustaining existence of a subject of the protection in certain quality parameters. When forest is the subject of protection the purpose is represented by crucial decision about further non-intervention or intervention (in this case the specification of intensity, areal location, timing of interventions, etc.) into the stand development. Both cases require clear rationale for further steps based on the assessment of forest stand naturalness in the context of the subject of protection. Definition of the purpose of protection should be the main criterion for the classification into categories “monument” (protection of a certain species, locality, etc.) or “reserve” (protection of processes).
The assessment methodology and its attachments
The methodology of naturalness assessment is a part of the legal code, currently the Decree from 28 February 2011 (No. 64/2011 Coll.) on plans of care, identification and registration of protected areas. Terminology, principles and procedures of the assessment, examples of the assessment form, etc. are included in Annex 2 – Principles for the assessment of forest naturalness. A table with natural tree species composition represents an important tool for an assessor. It was processed at Forest Management Institute, Brandýs n. L. The original version states tree species compositions also for individual forest types. However, classification into sets of forest types (SFT) is sufficient for the assessment of naturalness.