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Manuscript Submission Deadline 11 May 2022
Manuscript Extension Submission Deadline 31 May 2022

The exceptional ecological and social value of the world’s old-growth forests is undeniable, although disagreements and conflicts about their future persist. The many ecological, economic, cultural, recreational and spiritual ecosystem services that these forests provide explain the interest placed in them. ...

The exceptional ecological and social value of the world’s old-growth forests is undeniable, although disagreements and conflicts about their future persist. The many ecological, economic, cultural, recreational and spiritual ecosystem services that these forests provide explain the interest placed in them. In addition, there is a great concern in the conservation of old-growth forests, which are under great threat worldwide, and these pressures are expected to increase in the coming decades in the face of global change.

Important conservation, restoration and management issues are related to old-growth forests. They are, however, dynamic and variable ecosystems, and can greatly differ in their attributes across the world, within similar biomes, and even at smaller spatial scales. For this reason, the ecological, economic and social issues related to old-growth forests are also diverse, which makes strategic planning about their fate even more complex.

For example, defining – and therefore identifying – which forests can be considered "old-growth" is still a challenge in many regions. The understanding of habitats and biodiversity associated with old-growth forests, especially for taxa that are neither vertebrates nor vascular plants, is still often fragmentary. The complex natural disturbance dynamics that drive old-growth forests challenge the understanding and modelling of carbon cycling and thus the use of old-growth forests as a reference for carbon sequestration potentials. Social demands on old-growth forests can be very diverse and conflicting among forest users, limiting the development of long-term management and conservation strategies.

These blind spots and conflicts associated with old-growth forests further increase their vulnerability and threaten the services they can provide in the face of global change. It is in this context urgent to strengthen our knowledge of the ecology of old-growth forests and to develop relevant tools to address the many issues and questions related to their conservation, restoration or management. Furthermore, in addition to pushing the boundaries of science, there is also an opportunity to integrate the science-based knowledge system with indigenous knowledge to gain a more refined human perspective.

This Research Topic aims to bring together innovative research to strengthen the contribution of old-growth forests to current environmental issues. Because of the diversity of themes related to this topic, we welcome research in ecology and forest management as well as research that goes beyond this domain, for example by taking a more sociological or historical perspective.

We especially, but not exclusively, welcome contributions related to the following topics:

- Current challenges in defining and identifying old-growth forests
- Habitats and functions related to old-growth forests
- Recognizing the internal diversity and complexity of old-growth forests
- Roles of old-growth forests in facing global change
- Direct and indirect threats on old-growth forests
- Cultural and social values of old-growth forests
- Forest management and restoration strategies inspired by old-growth forests
- Place of secondary forests in the restoration of old-growth forests or old-growth attributes
- Prospects on old-growth forests
- Integrating science and indigenous knowledge towards a strategy for conserving biodiversity associated with old-growth forests.

Keywords: primary forest, forest succession, disturbance dynamics, natural disturbances, forest habitats, sustainable forest management, reference ecosystems, old-growth attributes, unmanaged forest, biodiversity loss, climate change


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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