Why the best exchange of knowledge&experiences about forests usually happens in the forest
Have you ever heard of the ADAPT Project, a project implemented by IUCN to increase ecosystem and community resilience to climate change and disaster risks by applying Nature-based solutions in the Western Balkans? I in fact haven’t, until recently I met some of the project partners when the Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ECARO) of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) organized in collaboration with diverse partners and country representatives from the Balkan region a four-day study tour to Bonn. The tour had the goal to exchange experiences and knowledge of nature-based solutions that may find application to the Western Balkan region.
On the last day of their tour, some colleagues from the European Forest Institute and I joined the Delegation at the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Bonn. We were welcomed by Matthias Schwoerer from the BMEL who in his talk introduced us to Germany’s forests and forestry. Did you know that 32% of the total area of Germany is forested? This was new to me, too. Afterwards, we learned from Mihaela Dragan-Lebovics from ECARO-IUCN on activities in the ADAPT Project. It was illustrative to take in what hands-on Nature-based solutions can really mean in practice. This presentation was followed by Julia Haas from the FOREST EUROPE Liaison Unit which outlined the FOREST EUROPE initiative on establishing a ‘Pan European Forest Risk Knowledge Mechanism’, a mechanism to support forests’ adaptation to changing climatic and site conditions as well as to enhance the resilience and mitigation potential of forests at a pan-European level. Here, sustainable forest management practices, like supporting the forest’s microclimate, can make a valuable impact in promoting resilience. Lastly, the set of presentations was concluded with Andreas Schuck’s talk on the European Forest Institute (EFI) and its facilitating role for the European Integrate Network.
He highlighted how the Integrate Network promotes the integration of biodiversity in managed forests in accordance with providing other requested ecosystem services The Integrate Network operates by the so-called Integrate Triangle visualizing the exchange and cooperation between policy, practice, and research. In preparation of the following excursion, Andreas further introduced the concept of marteloscopes which are used as outdoor forest classrooms for education, training, and knowledge exchange. Now that Andreas had sparked everyone’s interest in marteloscopes, we went on to visit one!
The field trip took the group to the ‘Kottenforst’, a very popular forest for recreation near the city center. The visit was organized jointly by the Forest Enterprise Rhein-Sieg-Erft and the Integrate Network Secretariat. The head of the Forest Enterprise, Stephan Schütte, and his colleagues from Wald und Holz NRW welcomed the participants and gave a brief introduction to the Kottenforst, their day-to-day work, and how they tackle current and future challenges in particular related to climate change impacts. The latter was impressively shown in a former Norway spruce stand which was completely destroyed due to drought and bark beetle infestation. Here they are establishing a new forest stand by planting small patches of oak saplings accompanied by natural regeneration, explained Stephan.
The field trip was then concluded by a visit to the marteloscope ‘Jägerhäuschen’ and a brief training exercise. The participants were asked to evaluate the ecological and economic values of trees in the course of making forest management decisions. Working in small groups stimulated fruitful discussions and raised many questions. One of those interactions focused on the importance of tree microhabitats. During the discussions, the local foresters gave an excellent clarification on why we want to preserve microhabitats: they store an important part of forests’ biodiversity! A lively exchange followed on how this educational tool can be applied in the respective Western Balkan countries. Although the marteloscope exercise concluded the field trip, it also marked a beginning for inspiration, innovative ideas, and new collaboration options with colleagues from IUCN and the representatives of the Western Balkan region. Finally, this joint exercise was another good example for my general observation: the most fruitful way to exchange knowledge and experiences about forests is best done in the forest itself.
This article was prepared with support of Maria Schloßmacher, Andreas Schuck and Gesche Schifferdecker.
Featured image: Lively discussions amongst participants during a training exercise in the marteloscope Jägerhäuschen in the Kottenforst. (Photo: Maria Schloßmacher)