Evidence-based Management (D2)

Evidence-based Management (D2)

D2) Evidence-based biodiversity management of forests

Carsten Dormann & Fabian Gutzat

University of Freiburg, Faculty of Environment & Natural Resources, Institute of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Chair of Biometry and Environmental System Analysis


The slow growth of forests makes accumulation of understanding of how forests respond to management a trans-generational task. Experience has accumulated locally, passed on from one forest manager to the next (1). Since the 19th century forest scientists have attempted to generalise this knowledge, e.g. through comparisons of national inventories, replicated experiments, or training networks for foresters (2), and also biodiversity has become an important issue in recent years.

Study questions and hypotheses

We evaluate the documented global knowledge on temperate forest management for biodiversity to develop evidence-based guidelines, a gap identified by practitioners.

Approach and methods

Essentially, this project comprises a systematic review (scientific literature, reports, academic theses, coupled with a formal meta-analysis), sounding of practitioner perspectives on the value of scientific evidence and an expert-driven development of guidelines for biodiversity management in forests. The first step, a systematic review is labour-intensive but straight forward, even if the quantitative analysis of published studies and grey literature in a meta-analysis can be technically challenging (3).

The second step, confronting scientific evidence with the perspectives represented by practitioners, identifies the key elements required for any translation of scientific evidence into practice. This step is often demanded, but fraught with difficulties (4). We shall contact practitioners individually, using a combination of open and multiple-choice questions to gauge:

  1. What they think are key processes and management activities for forest biodiversity (plants, birds, insects).
  2. How they rate the scientific evidence from outside the region.
  3. What the main constraints are impeding the implementation of foreign or own knowledge in forest management.

Next, we tackle the development of regionally specified guidelines, which cannot be undertaken by academics but needs to be driven by practitioners (4). Literature evidence may transfer to some extent, but management needs to be locally specified, thus requiring the consideration of local context (legal, traditional, environmental, economic, financial, administrative). Thus, guidelines have to fill in the gaps left by academic studies, outline recommended practice in situations where context demands nuanced practice, and respect working experience. While guideline development is a routine activity in medical research, we acknowledge that in environmental sciences this is a challenge.

However, the proposed project would be a milestone in the cooperation between forestry academics and managers and hence worth pursuing. We propose the following specific steps:

1) Evidence assessment:

  • Identification of most important management strategies to improve temperate forest biodiversity.
  • Compilation of studies (publications and theses) for each strategy, including data generated by projects of this Graduate School.
  • Application of level-of-evidence rating, judging both design and study quality to weight evidence contributed by each study(5).
  • Condensation of all studies for a strategy to a “best evidence available” statement.
  • Expert elicitation of forest managers on plausibility and economic viability of evidence-based management options (in cooperation with Module C).

2) Guideline development (to be started in phase I and continued in phase II):

  • Initiation of a communication process (in cooperation with D1), exploring how to best integrate scientific knowledge and regional knowledge and practice.
  • Formulation of forest management guidelines (best evidence, critical appraisal of studies and expert judgments, differentiating by forest type, ownership and management goal).
  • Review of guidelines by practitioners (forest research institutes, forest administration, foresters), adaptation to comments.
  • Presentation of guidelines to forest research institutes, first in Germany, thereafter as a workshop on an international conference (e.g. IUFRO).


We provide (i) the scientific knowledge on temperate forest management for biodiversity, condensed into (ii) a best evidence statement and (iii) a critique of its regional applicability by practitioners. D2 will be tightly coordinated with C2 and D1 (for expert elicitation, understanding use of knowledge in practice). In year 4, a joint workshop with D1 will be used to confront results from modules A and B with practitioners’ experience.

Further reading

  • Berkes et al. 2000. Rediscovery of traditional ecological knowledge as adaptive management. EcolApplications 10: 1251–1262.
  • Tomppo et al. 2010. National Forest Inventories. Springer, Berlin. http://noltfox.metla.fi;  experiments:http://www.fundiveurope.eu ; training: Hamunen K 2013. Forest owners’ social networks–possibilities to enhance knowledge exchange. Dissertationes Forestales 169.
  • Collaboration for Environmental Evidence 2013. Guidelines for systematic review and evidence synthesis in environmental management 4.2. Environmental Evidence, www.environmentalevidence.org/ Documents/Guidelines/Guidelines4.2.pdf.; Gerstner K, Dormann CF, Stein A, et al. 2014. Effects of land use on plant diversity – A global meta-analysis. J Appl Ecol 51:1690–1700; Koricheva, J. & Gurevitch, J. (eds). 2013. Handbook of Meta-Analysis in Ecology and Evolution. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.
  • Müller, J., Opgenoorth, L. 2014. On the gap between science and conservation implementation – A national park perspective. Basic and Applied Ecology 15: 373-378; Bainbridge I. 2014. How can ecologists make conservation policy more evidence based? Ideas and examples from a devolved perspective. J Appl Ecol51:1153–1158;
  • Dolman PM, Panter CJ, Mossman HL 2012. The biodiversity audit approach challenges regional priorities and identifies a mismatch in conservation. J Appl Ecol 49:986–997; Hill D, Arnold R 2012. Building the evidence base for ecological impact assessment and mitigation. J Appl Ecol 49:6–9.
  • Mupepele, A-C & Dormann, CF 2014. Assessing the evidence of ecosystem services studies: a framework and its application. bioRxiv. http: