From storm events to megafires, from drought to bark beetle damage – with intensified forest disturbance regimes during the last decades we have learned that if we want to mitigate forest risks and prevent negative impacts, we cannot only focus on emergency response and recovery. Thus, preventing disturbances and making forests more resilient has significantly gained in importance along with the insight that we need to learn how to live with intensified disturbances. In the past three years, several networking activities and events as well as fast track sharing of experiences and knowledge during forest related risks crisis have been organized in the framework of the project SUstaining and Enhancing REsilience of European Forests (SURE). These activities were aiming at promoting and further developing a European Forest Risk Facility, an evolving knowledge hub consisting of several organisations and experts from all over Europe, coming from the fields of academia, forest practice and risk management, policy and society. After three years (2017-2020) of fruitful activities within SURE, the project reached an end, and we use this opportunity to look back, reflect upon and summarize our work.
Those who are interested in an overview of all the events and activities that took place within the project are invited to check out the record of activities on our website. Moreover, the latest outputs that were already presented during our final conference in August 2020 are now available online. Fist, we created a map of forest risk management actors, describing the existing responsibilities and disturbance risk governance structures in several European countries. Second, the tool compendium was compiled as an open platform documenting all the learned lessons across Europe collected during the SURE project (for more information on the tool compendium, check out our new blogpost here).
Mapping forest disturbance risk management actors
One of the priorities indicated in the Forest Europe report on Adaptation to Climate Change1 is to enhance preparedness and expert capacity at local, regional, as well as national levels to respond to forest disturbances. However, the diversity of national governance structures, regulations, and the multiple stakeholders in forest disturbances can hamper the coordination of different actors and the development of a “stable international framework to enable rapid responses and continuity in capacity building and expertise sharing”1. For this reason, the recently finalized project project SUstaining and Enhancing REsilience of European Forests (SURE) made an attempt to document the authority and responsibility in times of crisis across the European countries.
The map of forest disturbance risk management aims at outlining the existing actors in forest risk management at the local, regional, and national levels in 21 European countries. This was done through a survey to experts from these countries asking for detailed information on actors involved in managing windstorms, wildfires, biotic risks, droughts, and other risks. The role of governmental actors, land management institutions, associations, communication, and education actors was defined and presented with maps and charts. The profile description of the 21 countries is available in this pdf.
Common attributes describing forest disturbance risk management in different countries were then analyzed and allowed for country comparisons. Countries may use different structures, sectors involved (e.g. military), and be specialized in forest disturbances types. Decentralized systems, for instance in Switzerland and Germany, give competences to their cantons and federal states. In contrast, centralized systems, such as in Latvia, Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, and Hungary, tend to have national actors and governmental agencies prevailing in the decisional processes. The existence of specialized task forces in certain types of disturbances depends on the experience of each country. For instance, Slovenia has now coordination groups for ice and wind breakage as a result of the disturbances that took place in 2014 and 2017. The Mediterranean countries have operational actors for wildfire management, but also groups to enhance risk awareness and knowledge exchange.
Besides showing differences between European countries, these maps may serve as a knowledge sharing tool where practitioners and policy makers can see how other countries are organized to face forest disturbances and potentially take inspiration.
After three years of networking, learning and capacity building interactions between science, policy and practice the SURE project reached an end. You can always consult the project tasks and activities on our website. We would like to thank the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture for funding this project. A big thank also to all our partners for the fruitful collaboration and great support.
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 Adaptation to Climate Change in Sustainable Forest Management in Europe. Link to the publication: https://foresteurope.org/new-publication-adaptation-climate-change-sustainable-forest-management-europe/