Maintaining biodiversity is a key goal of global forest policy which promotes ecosystem health and resilience in the face of changing land use and climate. Sustainable management of forest ecosystems is essential to the social and economic services that forests provide, is an important component of the environmental policies of national governments, and is a specific focus of the Conventional on Biological Diversity. Sustainable forest management supports the maintenance and enhancement of biodiversity, and relies on evidence based research to underpin associated policies and practices. Studies that take a focussed approach are particularly helpful in this regard where they identify mechanisms of ecological change in forest habitats, and predictors appropriate to determining the impact of management practices. Observational research can suggest likely mechanisms for ecological change, which can be tested and confirmed through experimental research. Predictors based on long-term research, on the mechanisms underlying ecological relationships, or on modelling approaches can be used to infer information about existing forests and to forecast future trends. This special issue presents a selection of papers which were first presented at the second international IUFRO conference on biodiversity in forest ecosystems and landscapes at University College Cork, Ireland in August 2012. The aim of this conference series is to 'share knowledge, discuss new trends, reflect on future directions in biodiversity management for sustainable forestry, and provide a stronger scientific basis for biodiversity management in forest landscapes in the light of climate change'. The selected papers exemplify the use of observational and experimental approaches to identify mechanisms of ecological change in forests, and the use of indicators to predict current and future patterns of biodiversity. Trends in forest biodiversity were examined and discussed, drawing on what we know about forests to reconstruct ancient forested landscapes and to identify strategies for the management of forests into the future. (c) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.