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Aspen forests support a diversity of plant and animal life

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Aspen forests have a high ability to regenerate, Czech scientists report. Experts add that they are resistant to climate change and can grow in many places in Europe.

Scientists from the Czech Republic believe that the aspen poplar (Populus tremula L.) is a key species found in Central Europe. An article on this topic was published in the “PLOS ONE” magazine.

– Eurasian aspen and aspens in general create an environment for other, dependent plant and animal species. Moreover, aspen forests regenerate quickly and colonize new areas, so they cope well with various events such as fires, diseases, pest infestations and hurricanes. Such situations will intensify as the climate warms, said Antonin Kusbach from the University of Brno, the main author of the publication. Using field surveys, remote observation techniques and sophisticated statistical methods, Czech scientists analyzed the status of over 4 million forest locations in the Czech Republic to better understand current potential aspen habitats and historical changes in their distribution. The data can also be applied to other regions of Central Europe.

Aspen forests

Aspen forests used to be much more common than today, but they have been destroyed by commercial afforestation in which other tree species are planted. However, the situation can be changed, researchers believe. There are many places where aspen can grow – at least in central Europe. – Changing forest policy in Europe could restore these extraordinary forests. With every acre covered with aspen, a diversity of plant and animal life will develop, says study co-author Paul Rogers. Various varieties of aspen occur in numerous places in the northern hemisphere, researchers point out. – It is sometimes said that in North America you can go from coast to coast and never leave the shadow cast by the aspen trees. This may not be true in the literal sense, but it shows the adaptability of these forests. Now we are beginning to better understand the enormous potential of aspen in Europe, adds the expert. Reforesting all the numerous potential habitats with aspen may be easier than it seems; according to scientists, it is enough to start the process and it will take its course. – My personal field observations indicate that after the removal of a large number of Norwegian spruces after the bark beetle invasion, aspen naturally found its way into the forests of Central Europe. This may show us that the solution is relatively easy, explains Antonin Kusbach.

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Main photo source: Adobe Stock

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