iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


500 years of coppice-with-standards management in Meerdaal Forest (Central Belgium)

Kris Vandekerkhove (1)   , Hans Baeté (2), Beatrijs Van Der Aa (1), Luc De Keersmaeker (1), Arno Thomaes (1), Anja Leyman (1), Kris Verheyen (3)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 9, Issue 4, Pages 509-517 (2016)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor1782-008
Published: Mar 17, 2016 - Copyright © 2016 SISEF

Research Articles

Collection/Special Issue: IUFRO division 8.02 - Mendel University Brno (Czech Republic) 2015
Coppice forests: past, present and future
Guest Editors: Tomas Vrska, Renzo Motta, Alex Mosseler

For centuries, coppice and coppice-with-standards were the main forest management systems in the northern and central parts of present Belgium. A high population density and a low forest cover in the whole region resulted in a high demand for wood, therefore strict regulations and management regimes were necessary to prevent overexploitation. We illustrate this with a well-documented case, that of Meerdaal Forest in Central Belgium, with reference to other sites in the region. Meerdaal Forest is a woodland 30 km east of Brussels. For centuries its high quality timber stands, especially oak, were managed as coppice-with-standards, with a gradually increasing share of standard trees. Using archive documents and ancient maps, we have reconstructed how this coppice-with-standard management has been developed and optimized over a period of about 500 years. Changes in cutting cycles and configurations were discerned, with a gradual increase of the importance of the standard layer over time. The analysis also showed how wood production could be successfully combined with other sources of income like grazing and pannage. We conclude that former managers of Meerdaal Forest, notwithstanding their lack of scholarship and reference works, developed a state-of-the-art sustainable and flexible management regime that allowed to provide high revenues during many centuries.


Coppice-with-standards, Archive Documents, Ancient Maps, Long-term Forest Changes, Grazing, Pannage

Authors’ address

Kris Vandekerkhove
Beatrijs Van Der Aa
Luc De Keersmaeker
Arno Thomaes
Anja Leyman
Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO), Gaverstraat 4, 9500 Geraardsbergen (Belgium)
Hans Baeté
Oude-Bruglaan 11 B10, 9160 Lokeren (Belgium)
Kris Verheyen
Ghent University, Forest & Nature Lab, Geraardsbergse Steenweg 267, 9090 Melle-Gontrode (Belgium)

Corresponding author

Kris Vandekerkhove


Vandekerkhove K, Baeté H, Van Der Aa B, De Keersmaeker L, Thomaes A, Leyman A, Verheyen K (2016). 500 years of coppice-with-standards management in Meerdaal Forest (Central Belgium). iForest 9: 509-517. - doi: 10.3832/ifor1782-008

Academic Editor

Tomas Vrska

Paper history

Received: Jul 29, 2015
Accepted: Dec 29, 2015

First online: Mar 17, 2016
Publication Date: Aug 09, 2016
Publication Time: 2.63 months

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