Temporal trends in the protective capacity of burnt beech forests (Fagus sylvatica L.) against rockfall

Maringer, Janet; Ascoli, Davide; Dorren, Luuk; Bebi, Peter; Conedera, Marco (2016). Temporal trends in the protective capacity of burnt beech forests (Fagus sylvatica L.) against rockfall European Journal of Forest Research, 135(4), pp. 657-673. Springer 10.1007/s10342-016-0962-y

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Beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) forests covering relief-rich terrain often provide direct protection from rockfall for humans and their property. However, the efficacy in protecting against such hazards may abruptly and substantially change after disturbances such as fires, windthrows, avalanches and insect outbreaks. To date, there is little known about the mid-term evolution of the protective capacity in fire-injured beech stands. We selected 34 beech stands in the Southern European Alps that had burnt in different intensity fires over the last 40 years. We inventoried all living and dead trees in each stand and subsequently applied the rockfall model Rockfor.net to assess the protective capacity of fire-injured forests against falling rocks with volumes of 0.05, 0.2, and 1 m3. We tested forested slopes with mean gradients of 27°, 30°, and 35° and lengths of 75 and 150 m. Burnt beech forests hit by low-severity fires have nearly the same protective capacity as unburnt forests, because only thin fire-injured trees die while intermediate-sized and large-diameter trees mostly survive. However, the protective capacity of moderate- to high-severity burns is significantly reduced, especially between 10 and 30 years after the fire. In those cases, silvicultural or technical measures may be necessary. Besides the installation of rockfall nets or dams, small-scale felling of dying trees and the placement of stems at an oblique angle to the slope can mitigate the reduction in protection provided by the forest.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL > Multifunctional Forest Management


Maringer, Janet;
Ascoli, Davide;
Dorren, Luuk0000-0001-9344-9461;
Bebi, Peter and
Conedera, Marco


S Agriculture > SD Forestry








Simon Lutz

Date Deposited:

10 Dec 2019 10:30

Last Modified:

15 Dec 2021 21:45

Publisher DOI:






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