How can we increase the resilience of our forest to be better prepared for future natural disturbances and climate change, while maintaining a high level of wood production, carbon storage, and habitat quality for biodiversity? The project Innovative forest management strategies for a resilient bioeconomy under climate change and disturbances (I-MAESTRO) aims at improving the scientific basis for developing adequate forest management strategies. In an interview series, we are introducing the different I-MAESTRO partners and their roles in the project – and we are sharing very personal perspectives from different researchers involved. The series starts with Matteo Cerioni from University of Ljubljana.
What is the University of Ljubljana (LU) contributing to I-Maestro?
The main contribution of LU is improving information on disturbances and the knowledge on recovery processes following them. More specifically, we are contributing to the update of a European database on forest disturbances and carrying out empirical studies on regeneration dynamics after large disturbances. This involves both collecting new field data (e.g. Slovenian forests subjected to ice storm and following bark beetle; Bulgarian beech forest reserve subjected to wildfire) and gathering and analyzing existing data from other European research groups interested in collaborating. These empirical studies will also serve the models, testing their ability to reproduce recovery processes. Furthermore, we are involved in developing metrics to assess the forest structural complexity resulting from different model simulations. It is considered a key features of forest resilience and includes tree spatial arrangement, size diversity and biodiversity. Finally, we will be involved in the dissemination of results among interested stakeholders.
Where does your specific expertise/background as a researcher come in?
I pursued both my BSc and MSc in Forestry at Marche Polytechnic University in Ancona, focusing on the study of forest ecology, including treeline and disturbance dynamics, using the tool of dendrochronology, in both theses. Afterwards I could further strengthen my field and laboratory skills during my permanence at the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology in Zaragoza, where I had some training in statistics and in the software environment R (typically used in forestry science and other fields of research), even though I still have a lot to learn about them. In my PhD I am studying the resilience of European temperate forests to large and severe disturbances, including interacting ones. I am also finding out what are the most relevant drivers of this property, trying to improve the current knowledge of recovery processes and how management can influence them.
What excites you about the project?
I find the project really stimulating, since it combines work in the field and in the lab, of which I gained experience in the last years and I really enjoy (especially the former), with the modelling of forest dynamics at multiple scales in order to predict future trends, which I believe is currently my weak point as a researcher. Nevertheless I am very eager to learn more and improve my skills, also considering the great opportunity to collaborate with the other partner institutions, which include some of the top researcher in the field worldwide. I think the project has the chance to help bridging the usual gap between the world of research and that of practitioners and policy-makers.
What do you expect as major achievement of your group/ the whole project?
I believe our group will manage to shed some more light on the ability of European temperate forests to “bounce back” after these destructive disturbances, which are becoming more and more severe recently, and are already threatening major vegetation shifts in other parts of the world (e.g. wildfires in North America). Together with the whole project group we will improve the understanding of resilience and how and at which scale forest structural complexity affects it. Finally, we will come up with precise and science-based guidelines to manage this fundamental property, in order to preserve ecosystem services under global change.
Featured image: Sokolna reserve, the Bulgarian study site (taken by Professor Momchil Panayotov of University of Forestry, Sofia).