Based on early forest management plans from 1823, this paper analyses forest management practices and tree species composition in the public forests of the Canton of Zurich in the early 19th century. Forest type distribution across the canton is reconstructed and detailed tree species composition is shown for 31 communities in the north-western part of the canton. For these communities, we compared the historical tree species composition with modern data from a regional forest inventory. The results show that coppice with standards was the most important forest type in the early 19th century. Tree species composition largely depends on the forest types. The highest diversity in tree species can be found in coppice and coppice-with-standards forests. The analyses reveal no clear relationship between tree species composition and environmental factors such as climate, topography and soil. This leads to the conclusion that in the early 19th century already management had a stronger influence on tree composition than natural conditions. During the last 200 years, tree species composition in the Canton of Zurich changed profoundly. Whereas today's forests are more natural in terms of species composition, they are less diverse in species. Knowing the tree species composition in the past can thus be helpful in conservation projects, e.g. in establishing coppice and coppice-with- standards forests in order to promote rare light-demanding plant and animal species.

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