Natural Disturbance-Based Forest Management: Moving Beyond Retention and Continuous-Cover Forestry

Timo Kuuluvainen, Per Angelstam, Lee Frelich, Kalev Jõgiste, Matti Koivula, Yasuhiro Kubota, Benoit Lafleur, Ellen Macdonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Global forest area is declining rapidly, along with degradation of the ecological condition of remaining forests. Hence it is necessary to adopt forest management approaches that can achieve a balance between (1) human management designs based on homogenization of forest structure to efficiently deliver economic values and (2) naturally emerging self-organized ecosystem dynamics that foster heterogeneity, biodiversity, resilience and adaptive capacity. Natural disturbance-based management is suggested to provide such an approach. It is grounded on the premise that disturbance is a key process maintaining diversity of ecosystem structures, species and functions, and adaptive and evolutionary potential, which functionally link to sustainability of ecosystem services supporting human well-being. We review the development, ecological and evolutionary foundations and applications of natural disturbance-based forest management. With emphasis on boreal forests, we compare this approach with two mainstream approaches to sustainable forest management, retention and continuous-cover forestry. Compared with these approaches, natural disturbance-based management provides a more comprehensive framework, which is compatible with current understanding of multiple-scale ecological processes and structures, which underlie biodiversity, resilience and adaptive potential of forest ecosystems. We conclude that natural disturbance-based management provides a comprehensive ecosystem-based framework for managing forests for human needs of commodity production and immaterial values, while maintaining forest health in the rapidly changing global environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number629020
JournalFrontiers in Forests and Global Change
StatePublished - Apr 9 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
KJ acknowledges the grant no P200029MIME by Estonian University of Life Sciences.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Kuuluvainen, Angelstam, Frelich, Jõgiste, Koivula, Kubota, Lafleur and Macdonald.


  • Natural range of variation
  • biodiversity conservation
  • forest dynamics
  • forest ecosystem
  • landscape management
  • restoration
  • sustainable forestry


Dive into the research topics of 'Natural Disturbance-Based Forest Management: Moving Beyond Retention and Continuous-Cover Forestry'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this