Including biodiversity assessments in forest management planning is becoming increasingly important due to the importance of biodiversity for forest ecosystem resilience provision and sustainable functioning. Here we investigated the potential to include biodiversity indicators into forest management planning in Europe. In particular, we aimed to (i) identify biodiversity indicators and data collection methods for biodiversity assessments at the stand and landscape levels, and (ii) evaluate the practicality of those indicators for forest management planning. We performed a literature review in which we screened 188 research studies published between 1990 and 2020. We selected 94 studies that fulfilled the inclusion criteria and examined in more detail. We considered three aspects of biodiversity: structure, composition, and function, and four forest management categories: unmanaged, managed, plantation, and silvopastoral. We used three criteria to evaluate the practicality of forest biodiversity indicators: cost-effectiveness, ease of application, and time-effectiveness. We identified differences in the practicality of biodiversity indicators for their incorporation into management plans. Stand-level indicators are more practical than landscape-level indicators. Moreover, structural biodiversity indicators (e.g., large trees, canopy openness, and old forest stands) are more useful in management plans than compositional indicators, as these are easily observable by non-professionals and can be obtained by forest inventories. Compositional indicators such are vascular plants, fungi, bryophyte, lichens, and invertebrate species are hard to identify by non-professionals and thus are impractical. Functional indicators (e.g., nutrient cycling) are not sufficiently addressed in the literature. Using recently updated existing databases (e.g., national forest inventories and bird atlases) is very time and cost-efficient. Remote sensing and other technology (e.g., smartphone applications) are promising for efficient data collection in the future. However, more research is needed to make these tools more accurate and applicable to a variety of ecological conditions and scales. Until then, forest stand structural variables derived from inventories can help improve management plans to prepare European forests towards an uncertain future.
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