European agroecosystems host a variety of farm woodlands that act as primary determinants of biodiversity and ecosystem services. While woodland areas have been in decline worldwide, they have regionally increased, for example, in Eastern Germany. This study performs a quantitative and spatially explicit assessment of differences in species richness, diversity, and evenness as well as forest physiognomy and structure among Eastern German farm woodlands established during (1) the presocialist era (until 1945), (2) the socialist era (1945-1990), and (3) the postsocialist era (after 1990). Aerial imagery was used to allocate woodlands to one of the three eras, after which a forest inventory of 120 woodlands was performed. The results show substantial differences in forest composition and structure. Presocialist-era woodlands are composed of native (mean 96 %), deciduous (mean 94 %) tree species. Mean diameters and species richness values are high. Typical socialist woodland species are nonnative (mean 35 %) and/or coniferous (mean 51 %). Stands have a uniform, even-aged stand structure. Species richness/diversity indices are generally low. Postsocialist woodlands exhibit a high degree of variability. Percentages of nonnative (7 %) and coniferous (10 %) individuals are low. The findings suggest that socialist and postsocialist farmland and forest policies translated into distinct land-use legacies in the newly established farm woodlands, which differ considerably from the composition and structure of presocialist woodlands. We argue that forest conservation planning should actively consider land-use legacies, which are of particular relevance in the landscapes of Central and Eastern Europe, as these have undergone multiple, abrupt, and severe land-use transitions.
European Journal of Forest Research, 2014, Vol 133, Issue 4, p. 597-610