Assessment of the Empirical Management Method of Coppice Chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.) Forests Practiced by the Monks and its Effect on the Availability of Forest Soil Resources in Mount Athos, Greece

In Greece, chestnut forests (Castanea sativa Mill.) occupy more than 30,000 ha of forest land. The species is one of the most significant of the Balkans. It is mainly cultivated for its high quality wood. Concerning cultivation and harvesting, the monks in Mount Athos peninsula in northern Greece practice a special empirical management method for local coppice chestnut forests. Data collected from 9 sampling surfaces, comprising of coppice chestnut stands of three different ages (10, 20 and 40 years old), were analyzed to study the effect of this particular empirical management method on specific soil parameters. Results indicated that, there is a general trend for increased organic matter and nutrient concentrations in the soil of 10 and 40 years old chestnut stands in comparison to those of 20 years of age. Cultivation treatments cause intense alterations on soil properties, leading to severe degradation of nutrient resources.

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