We review the effects of human impact on biodiversity of European forests in the light of recent views on disturbances and succession in ecosystems, and discuss recent ideas on how biodiversity affects ecosystem functions such as productivity and ecosystem stability. With this as a background we discuss how to better manage European forests for both production and biodiversity. We argue that the next generation of forestry practices need to understand and mimic natural disturbance dynamics much better than the present ones. Of particular importance is the fact that most species in European forests have evolved in forests that were to a large extent influenced by large grazers, first by megaherbivores and later, in historic times, by domestic animals. We highlight several areas where new knowledge and management tools are urgently needed: (i) How do species survive and adapt to the natural disturbance regimes in different regions and forest types? (ii) How can new and imaginative forest management practices be devised that take natural disturbance regimes into account? (iii) How does forest biodiversity affect ecosystem function and stability in a changing world, in particular in the light of predicted climate changes? (iv) How are ecological processes at different levels and scales related to diversity, and how do different management practices affect biodiversity? (v) How can efficient agroforestry methods be developed to preserve biodiversity? (vi) What is the role of humans and human behaviour for sustainable management of ecosystems? (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.