Vegetation and disturbance history of the Bavarian Forest National Park, Germany

van der Knaap, Willem O.; van Leeuwen, Jacqueline F. N.; Fahse, Lorenz; Szidat, Sönke; Studer, Tanja; Baumann, Joël; Heurich, Marco; Tinner, Willy (2020). Vegetation and disturbance history of the Bavarian Forest National Park, Germany. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 29(2), pp. 277-295. Springer 10.1007/s00334-019-00742-5

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National parks are supposed to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with species and ecosystems. Detailed knowledge about past vegetation and disturbance regimes therefore forms an important basis for appropriate management. In the Bavarian Forest National Park in SE Germany, we therefore studied fossil pollen, spores and macrofossils from lake Rachelsee, a nearby mire, and Stangenfilz mire, all lying at higher elevations. Results indicate that deciduous forest on lower slopes (ca. 500–1,000 m a.s.l.) were first affected by humans in Neolithic times ca. 4500 bc with marked declines of Tilia, Ulmus and Fraxinus. High-montane mixed forests (1,000–1,450 m a.s.l.) were in a near-natural state consisting of Picea, Abies and Fagus in comparable proportions up to ca. 500 bc (a natural baseline condition), after which they were impacted by forest grazing and/or logging, starting between early-Roman times to early-Medieval times depending on location. Abies especially declined markedly. Forest partially recovered during the migration period fifth-eighth century ad, especially Carpinus, but not Abies. Subsequently, deforestation increased at lower elevation for food production, and forest grazing and wood extraction at higher elevation led to a further strong decline of Abies around ad 1000 near Rachelsee. After that, nutrient levels increased continually at all elevations, and a forest fire occurred in the 13th century near Stangenfilz. During the 19th century, forests around Rachelsee recovered partially whereas overgrazing of Stangenfilz resulted in a hiatus. Forests declined further in the 20th century around the study sites, but after ca. ad 1960 less so around Rachelsee thanks to local conservation measures. Historically recorded large-scale bark-beetle infestations following heavy storms, such as in the ad 1870s and 1980s, hardly left traces in the pollen data. From a palaeoecological perspective the Park’s no-intervention management strategy is well-suited to facilitate recovery of original forest functioning and diversity, as it is slowly leading to renewal of natural mixed forest of Abies, Picea and Fagus. This development may have considerable influence on the future disturbance regime, and the insights obtained will be important for the park management.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences (DCBP)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Palaeoecology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)

UniBE Contributor:

van Leeuwen, Jacqueline Francisca, Fahse, Lorenz, Szidat, Sönke, Baumann, Joël, Tinner, Willy


500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)
500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 540 Chemistry








Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

21 Oct 2019 16:05

Last Modified:

30 Aug 2023 00:25

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Bavarian Forest; Spruce bark beetle; Natural vegetation; Forest disturbance; Palaeoecology; Holocene; Forest management




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