Close-To-Nature Forestry across Europe

A short report on the annual Pro Silva Europa meeting in Weimar, Germany

Pro Silva is a European federation of professional foresters across 24 European countries (and more recently in New England, USA) who advocate and promote Pro Silva Close to Nature Forest Management Principles as an alternative to age-class forestry to create and maintain resilient forest ecosystems. Increasing forest resilience was also the motivation to create Pro Silva 29 years ago.

This year, the annual meeting was planned and prepared by ANW Deutschland and Pro Silva Europa. It was operationally hosted by ANW Thuringia and the state forest administration of Thuringia in and around the city of Weimar on 20-23 June 2018. The Pro Silva Program addressed topics such as forest conversion from age-class to continuous-cover forestry, re-introduction of silver fir (and other climate-change-relevant tree species) and the ungulate-silviculture challenge of converting European forests to more biodiverse, stable and resilient forests. For more information, you can check out the PSE Weimar Declaration and the Press Release published to support the event. The official meeting report can be found here.

Over 60 participants from 18 countries as well as delegates from the European Commission and the German Ministry for Food and Agriculture participated in this truly interactive European event. Here you can have a look into the agenda topics of the three highly interesting and motivating field trips:

The ANW (Pro Silva) Germany website is currently collecting the presentations (ongoing).

After the lively discussions and exchange of expert’ opinions over 3 days, I have to conclude: there is ONE cross-cutting pan European topic that ALL participants have in common. And we ALL shared the same concern:  We agreed, that IF we want to mitigate the effects of the predicted increasing forest risks and disturbances, one of the best tools available for central Europe is converting the age-class forests, often dominated by only one tree species, into mixed, stable, un-even-aged, close-to-nature forest stands and systems.

As we could very clearly observe during the field trips, the one very important pre-requisite of forest conversion is managing the ungulate populations, i.e. roe deer, red deer, fallow deer, chamois… All participants confirmed in the discussions that across Europe, there is no balanced ungulate-forest relationship and that high ungulate densities are the main obstacle to preparing and managing our forests towards more biodiversity and resilience. We have up to 28 different hunting laws and regulations in Europe for the same deer species – resulting in 28 different wildlife management systems.

Looking at the magnitude of the problem, we concluded that the annual  area affected by selective browsing and bark stripping in Europe exceeds for instance the annual burnt forest area in Europe by far.  Should (the sometimes controversially discussed) hunting then not receive the same political and financial support if this serves resilient forests? Instead of subsidizing tree protection measures like artificial fences?

After this impressive exchange with experts and specialists, I personally believe that it is about time to address the topic of ungulate effects in forests on a European level. Wildlife management and hunting should receive more public understanding, attention and support. Pro Silva Europa in collaboration with the European Forest Risk Facility could provide a platform and facilitate such a process.

For further reading I recommend:

 

 

 

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