Within the framework of our Life 4 Oak Forests project, we are searching for natural oak reference forests in Central Europe and Hungary. During this search, we came across it, or rather rediscovered the natural oak forest block formed on Kavicshát in Aggtelek. Aggtelek National Park Directorate (ANPD) manages this forest.
At the beginning of July, we organized a field trip to the natural oak forest of Aggtelek Kavicshát. Participants were the Hungarian project partners and the staff of the host ANPD. The current forest (Turkey Oak-Hornbeam-European Oak stands with Sessile Oak and Aspen) is the result of natural regeneration. On this area formerly there were small peasant properties (plough lands, pastures and meadows) and then gradually abandoned their cultivation over the last 20-100 years. In this forest block for decades has been no planned human use. This is why quantity of dead wood is increased and its different forms are present. Natural forest dynamic processes work without being held up as well. Therefore, the forest evokes a lot of characteristics of older natural forests in many ways.
The ANPD began surveying the structure, tree species composition and some microhabitats of the forest two years ago. Data collection and analysis is still ongoing. The presentation of some results of the forest survey (tree stand mapping, dendroecological study, stand structure features) and what was seen in the field provided many lessons.
There were useful experiences for our project: spatial and temporal process of the natural succession, the patterns and strength of the natural regeneration of the oaks, the role of the pioneer trees (mainly the Aspen) in the regeneration and juvenile development of oaks, gap dynamic. What we have seen also raised some thought-provoking questions. These questions and the experiences help us in the work. We all agreed that this forest area is worth forest ecological researching. This area can provide practical knowledge for nature conservation forest management of Natura 2000 oak forests. Furthermore, it can provide guidance for continuous forest cover management to shaping mosaic forest structure for oak regeneration in small patterns.