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Award winners

The projects listed below are the previous recipients of the Cresco Capital Award.
If you want to access the projects or to get in touch with the authors, please contact us at

2024 award


Marie Louise Dornonville de la Cour Bergmann

Marie’s master thesis, titled "Carbon Stocks in Natural Colonized versus Planted Forests", investigates the potential differences in carbon stock levels between naturally colonized and planted forests on former agricultural fields. This research provides valuable insights into the carbon sequestration capabilities of different forest types.

Marie measured and compared three carbon pools: woody biomass, soil organic carbon, and ground/litter layer. The study was conducted at three paired comparison sites in Sjælland, Denmark. Each site consisted of a planted forest (broadleaved) bordering an equally aged, naturally colonized forest.

Key Findings

  • Carbon Stock Distribution: The results showed a difference in carbon stock distributions between the three investigated carbon pools both between treatment and sites. However, the total ecosystem carbon stocks were higher on planted sites.

  • Soil Organic Carbon: No significant differences were found in soil organic carbon (0-30 cm) between the naturally colonized and planted sites.

  • Development Stages: Naturally colonized sites had developed into different stages, indicating that the rates and trajectories of natural colonization are highly site-dependent.

There is limited knowledge about the carbon stock levels of naturally colonized forests. Therefore, Marie’s thesis contributes new and important knowledge to the field. This research is directly applicable to land managers, facilitating informed decision-making and sustainable forest and land management.

At Cresco, we encourage more research in this field to increase ecological stewardship.

In an interview with Marie, she elaborated on her motivation for the project and her recommendations to practitioners and researchers.

My motivation for choosing the thesis topic was to find afforestation methods that support various ecosystem services, including climate change mitigation and biodiversity. In addition, there was limited knowledge about the difference in carbon pools between naturally colonized forests and planted forests, especially in relation to carbon pools other than living biomass.

During the project period, I was surprised to see the large and very clear visual difference between planted and naturally colonized areas. Although my results show that there is a larger carbon stock on planted areas, I recommend that smaller areas will be allocated to natural colonization to achieve higher biological diversity, and because the difference between the carbon pools in naturally colonized forest and planted forests might decrease over time. If land managers decide to let areas colonize naturally, I recommend they patiently commit and ‘let go’ of control to see what happens over time. However, there is limited knowledge about the long-term effects, so I encourage future studies to include longer time series and other parameters such as baselines and previous land uses; soil types; topography; grazing and browsing; and species choice.

Carbon stocks in natural colonized versus planted forests

2023 award


Osvald Bjarup Bruun &
Joachim Halfdan Krogh Krüger

Influence of biophysical properties and forest management activities on Danish forest floor- and mineral soil carbon pools

Osvald and Joachim’s master thesis titled Influence of biophysical properties and forest management activities on Danish forest floor- and mineral soil carbon pools investigates the carbon balances of forest ecosystems by combining comprehensive datasets from the Danish National Forest Inventory with the National Forest Soil Inventory to search for correlations between carbon stocks and development with a wide range of parameters for forest management activities; stand characteristics; and geological analysis. The results provided recommendations to increase carbon stocks in managed forests and suggestions to improve national carbon reporting.

In an interview with Osvald and Joachim, they elaborated on their motivation, experience and results from the thesis.

In a time where forest ecosystems are high on the climate agenda, we have to better understand the full climate mitigation potential of the forest ecosystem. Due to commercial interests, the living biomass pool has been quite well researched, while the remaining carbon pools have been more unknown. The remaining carbon pools can be difficult and time-consuming to measure, so through research, we have to establish guidelines to forest management with climate mitigation objectives.

It was rewarding to access these huge datasets, which came together to form a really good basis for statistical analysis. Some of the results were expected, while others were more surprising. Based on the results, we recommend that forests managed with climate mitigation objectives to minimize the intensity of harvesting operations; maintain forest climate; and mix broadleaves and conifers. We also found that the current reporting procedure for the mineral soil pool could be improved by accounting for various site variables.

We encourage others to use these datasets for similar analyses, as we believe we only began to understand what they can reveal. Future analyses could include the next resampling; time since afforestation; previous land-use; and much more. The inventories represent a substantial contribution to research in forest ecology, so we encourage that they are continued and improved to include future resampling and improve observations of selected parameters. If anyone wants to continue this research, we would be happy to assist in how that can be done.

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