The old forestry management, favouring 2 layers of vegetation (one lower for coppicing and grasses and one high trunk layer for seed trees) called “Mittelwaldbetrieb” and cppice-with-standard forest, had been the typical forestry practice until the 19th century. In the “Groussebësch” this kind of woodland management had also been followed and was even necessary because of the unregulated exploitation of the woods the Middle Ages. Coppicing became an absolute necessity to gain firewood and timber.
Mainly young shoots were cut and a good part of the strong bole Pendunculate oaks (called “Lassreiser or Lassreitel”) for example were spared in order to let them grow to form the upper high trunk layer of the forest, as it still can be seen in the “Groussebësch” today. This procedure had been repeated many times so that soon there had been a coeval lower layer and a non-coeval higher layer of vegetation. First both layers originate from coppicing and later on the high trunk trees were especially planted.
This form of management allowed the population to get continuously timber and firewood out of the same forest. Besides, the oak barks were used for tanning, the acorns to fatten the pigs and the light grassy vegetation to feed cattle and horses. Up to the 19th century this form of forest management played a very important economic role for the inhabitants of the region. The upper layer was formed by high trunk seed trees, in order to gain timber.
|The traditional coppice-with-standard wood offered firewood, timber, feed
(acorns, beechnuts, grass and leaf) and the barks served for tanning.
The picture of the forest today
Together with the development of the railway as a mean of transport at the beginning of the 19th century, the mineral coal began to replace more and more wood as an energy source and the coppice-with-standard forest management lost of its importance. In the last quarter of the 19th century the preferred form of forest management became the “Hochwaldbetrieb” or high forests, meaning that mainly high trunk trees, grown out of seed or planted, populate the forest. This form of management is today still valid in Luxembourg and only few of the old coppice-with-standard forests can be found. However in Italy and France for example this old forest management practice can still be found more frequently.
|Out of these stools of a European Beech and a European Hornbeam
new firewood could be gained after 25–30 years.
There are in fact many arguments in favour of the coppice-with-standard method, not only from the historical point of view, but also and mainly concerning the protection of species from fauna and flora. Coppice-with standard forests are often very rich in light with a dense herb and shrub layer, offering shelter to many different animal species (more than 50 bird species, many beetle and butterfly species or, like in this forest the fire salamander). In fact the mosaic structure of this woodland with its light and shadow zones shows many different living conditions on a rather small site.
|The alignment of the fruits on the long peduncle gave its name to
the “Pendunculate oak” typical for the coppice-with-standard wood.