No storm clouds without silver linings

Written by Alexander Held, Andrea Ortiz, Maria Schloßmacher

Two major storms, Eberhard and Franz, hit Germany and so its most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, last week. Experts are still assessing the full extent of the damage, but what is clear: this huge damage will have long-term impacts on forests. It also demonstrates once again the extent of enormous damages that are caused by storms and the related secondary damages like bark beetle infestation. 

Several state forest-services published press releases to inform about the state of the forests after the storms and to raise awareness about the level of damages that hit the forests.

Wald und Holz NRW (The State-Forest Enterprise of North Rhine-Westphalia) therefore calls on all forest visitors to avoid affected forests. First, they work on opening up paths as quickly as possible and defusing identifiable dangers. However, according to the first assessment, this can still take a few days.

A local newspaper in Bonn, General-Anzeiger, reported that due to the storm, 300 trees were felled only in the Bonner Stadtwald.

The Niedersächsiche Landesforsten (State Forests of lower Saxony) conveyed that the storms have left clear traces in the forest. The forest-services are now working hard to clear the roads and paths, only then it can be estimated what damage has occurred.

This storm follows 2018 weather extremes, which had enormous impacts on forests across Europe and caused -according to the annual forest condition report for Saxony of 2018– the most devastating forest damages since reunification.

Forest disturbances may cause destruction- but there is a silver lining!

Although forests are facing tremendous challenges that come through different disturbances, there is a cause for optimism. In October 2018, Vaia hit North-eastern Italy and has raised unprecedented public attention because it hit some of the most beautiful and famous forests in the Dolomites Mountains. Keeping in mind the devastating Vaia storm, news related to climate change, and extreme meteorological events, a nice fresh breeze of hope comes in with the short footage “il bosco retornerà”. The video was self-produced by “Compagnia delle Foreste” and co-sponsored by “SISEF” (Società Italiana di Selvicoltura ed Ecologia Forestale) – both cooperation partners in the SURE project with the aim of raising awareness and reflecting on tomorrow’s forests. The movie shares the story of the forest of Camaldoli in Tuscany. The filmmakers found an ancient photographic record that shared the state of this forest and provided evidence of the devastating impacts of a storm in 1917.

It is true that after a disturbance event the forest can be drastically changed and may never go back to the exact state that it was in before. Nevertheless, as the story of the video tells the disturbance also sets the starting point for a new forest generation. Likewise, the film sparks the importance of appropriate silvicultural- and deer management that supports the recovery of the forest and leaves space for the natural dynamics to happen. Furthermore, and this is more than promising, it explains how we can achieve this in a comprehensive and clear manner. The movie also considers climate change adaptation and provides some hints on how to grow the resilient forests that we wish for tomorrow.

It is a short video that we recommend seeing and in difference to the many alarming environmental films we are used to, leaves the viewer with a feeling of optimism.

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