Long-term forest experiments have provided researchers with solid empirical information on forest ecology and management for many decades in the past. Present economic conditions make it difficult to maintain the previous level and intensity of experimentation. Subsequently, we risk losing a considerable amount of information, while at the same time, the demands and expectations on forest research are increasing dramatically due to climate change and bioenergy utilisation.
Researchers and data managers in ten countries are working on the NoLTFoX database for information on long-term forest experiments. The annual meeting 2008 for this network was held in Scotland and several overviews of the current situation were presented. General information on more than 11.000 active experiments has been submitted into the database. They have been classified according to seven research subjects and several objectives. Different search criteria can be used to locate experiments using the database interface on the internet.
All members in the network share a common concern to preserve experimental activities for the future. But there are differences between countries. Finland and Sweden have an extremely large number of experiments and a major challenge is to prioritise these, focusing on "the best ones" and avoiding duplication of existing experiments. The most recent members from Ireland are using relatively large resources in a five year project searching for experiment information and even restoring experiments that may have been abandoned in the past. The Baltic countries are also still faced with the challenges of finding and restoring untended experiments. New experiments will be established in all countries, but the needs can be better identified when there is an overall picture of existing experiments across country borders. This information can provide a useful base for funding as well.
The network’s activities have been evaluated by independent experts twice, the last time in the autumn 2008. The feedback has been positive, encouraging us to continue and also giving supportive suggestions on how best to proceed. Still, the views and suggestions of potential end-users are greatly appreciated. One widely supported step for the future is to include new organisations and countries from within Northern Europe.
Acknowledgement: The NoLTFoX network activities were initiated by the Nordic Forest Research Cooperation Committee (SNS), which also has been the main funding organisation.