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How to integrate nature conservation and forest management in two days

Wrapping up the results of the InForMAr kick-off meeting
By Johanna Strieck & Laura Nikinmaa
European Forest Institute’s (EFI) Bonn office hosted a two-day’s workshop to kick off the project Integrated Forest Management Learning Architecture (InForMAr). The project aims at conveying existing knowledge related to the implementation of integrated forest management, in order to spread cases of success as well as to address and to fill potential knowledge gaps. To get a background as inclusive as possible, around 30 European policy stakeholders, scientists and practitioners joined the workshop to discuss (and co-design) the research approach of the InForMAr project, and to connect to the project’s networking and policy/practice support activities.
Head of EFI’s resilience program Dr. Georg Winkel introduced the project and drew attention to its integrative character from the beginning: “The main aspect is to create learning sites for policy, science and practice to connect, to enable the identification of driving forces, so to understand and to demonstrate successful cases for adaptation in all contexts.”  Specific training sites, called Marteloscopes, already enjoy great popularity. According to Andreas Schuck, Senior Researcher within InForMAr, stakeholders from all over Europe already express high interest – from practitioners over policy stakeholders to universities.
Tomáš Krejzar, Czech Ministry of Agriculture, introduced the European network initiative INTEGRATE supported by 15 European states and facilitated by InForMAr. His vision for the project is clear: “It involves all member states, is known and respected as a platform of knowledge for forest management and biodiversity, simple enough to be used in the field and flexible enough to provide different members with the assistance they require.”
Krejzar’s input was followed by other very lively presentations from all backgrounds. Dr. Frank Krumm (WSL) introduced the Swiss InForMAr partner book project “oForest”, which will allow for another look at existing concepts of integration and provide IMG_0069examples of how forest enterprises operate under respective conditions. Keynotes by Yoan Paillet (IRSTEA), Lena Gustafsson (SLU), Metodi Sotirov (University of Freiburg), Susanne Winter (WWF Deutschland), Peter Loeffler (DG Env), Eckart Senitza (Pro Silva Europe) and Robert Flies (Luxembourg Private Forest Owners) further illustrated different perspectives on integrated forest management in terms of region and viewpoint. Retention forestry takes on many forms depending on the region. Differences between Sweden and France for example became clear, when Paillet asked about thresholds for practical management, while Gustafsson was wondering about the time frame in which the effects of retention forestry will be visible. Answers differed between the keynote speakers for how long it will take to be able to see impacts of management change. Estimates ranged from 10 to 20 years for forest structure, while most were very unsure in terms of biodiversity.
Following Winter, the potential of integrated forest management to increase biodiversity in European forests is being recognized by the nature conservation sector. She stated that WWF Germany’s goal is to have 50 percent of its forest either effectively protected or under integrated forest management. The benefits of this approach are recognized by the EU as well: Loeffler explained that there is a vast amount of funds available for nature conservation in forestry. There are not put to use yet, as there are no requests for them. More information on funding possibilities by the EU should be distributed to forest owners and practitioners, Loeffler argues.
What can we do to motivate and inform forest owners about integrated forest management? – was asked by Flies and Sentiza. According to Flies, forest owners are indeed willing to participate in integrated forest management, if you provide them with training on biodiversity assessment and give them incentives: explain it to the public, build a network structure and include more than biodiversity like climate change mitigation, socio-economic aspects and local bio-economy.  Senitza added that UFOs (urban forest owners) need to be able to benefit from forest education of other countries and to become self-reliant and certain about their responsibility.
Subsequently, everybody was invited to join different working groups to discuss how Integrated Forest Management is implemented in different contexts as well as how to explore socio-economic factors, which drive or challenge successful Integrated Forest Management. Moreover, group discussions were focussing on the InForMAr outlook, how policy can support IFM implementation and what needs to be done in practice to improve a proper application.IMG_0073
Although it was very interesting to learn about national differences in IFM, countries are all quite similar in terms of what could be done to improve implementation, according to Daniel Kraus, forester in the South of Germany and former senior researcher with EFI: “The major difference lies in how countries manage forest between retention trees. In some countries these elements are more dynamic and in some more statistic. So it would be crucial to learn what kind of thresholds different countries/companies use.” The legal frameworks might already be in place and it is up to the project network to focus on what can be done to improve the implementation.
Challenging and driving socio-economic factors were determined as environmental – regional differences of IFM and climate change effects, as technological – less people in the forest through mechanisation, as economic – slimming viability of small-scale forestry, as socio-demographic – social capital of forest owners and finally as institutional – with great regulative burden to overcome.
With all this diverse input during the two days, the need for and the willingness to participate in a cross country network for knowledge exchange became clear. Variations of IFM implementations depend on the managers and connecting through success stories can lead the way for many others to combine economic goals and nature conservation. However, it is crucial to keep in mind that the top down approach is not always perceived as positive, forest ownership demographics vary greatly and new ideas can get lost in the communication chain.
For more information on the programme and related documents, please visit the project website.

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