and Alexander Held
What had already been predicted in 2018, became true.
Spring is too warm and too dry, again. The year 2019 had a hot start: during the first four months, more areas have been burned than during the entire 2018 across Europe. The Joint Research Centre’s European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) of the EU Science Hub recorded 1233 fires corresponding to a burned area of more than 250 000 ha by the end of April. In comparison, there were 1192 fires burning 181 000 ha during the whole 2018.
For a young professional in the field of forestry, reading the news nowadays is a schizophrenic experience. On one hand, I’m scared to death with the heat waves and drought occurring at odd times of the year, continuously increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, alien species invasions in new areas and massive insect outbreaks in various parts of Europe. On the other hand, it is very exciting and hopeful: climate change awareness is increasing, and actions are being taken, wood product innovations are replacing many fossil-fuel based ones, and biodiversity conservation measures are adopted by many forest managers. Nevertheless, we are facing a serious situation that cannot be fixed with few tricks. With the disturbance frequency and intensity increasing all the time, we need to revise how we manage the risks they are causing to our forests.
The North is getting hot! Last year with its uncommonly warm and dry spring and summer caused lot of problems to the forest and agricultural sector in the Nordic countries. In addition, Sweden suffered from extensive wildfires. Due to climate change, summers like 2018 might become the new normal. To address this, the Nordic Council of Ministers launched a project group that is a collaboration between Nordic Agri Research (NKJ) and Nordic Forest Research (SNS). SNS held a workshop “Nordic forestry in times of extreme weather” in Copenhagen, Denmark, on the 1st of March to discuss amongst the participants from the ministries and fire service, how Nordic collaboration could be strengthened to face the new challenges. Laura Nikinmaa from the European Forest Institute’s Resilience Programme was invited to be a guest speaker together with Marc Castellnou from the Pau Costa Foundation and Martin Vendelbo from the Danish Emergency Management Agency.
The European forest sector phases numerous demands and challenges, and the need to mitigate and adapt to climate change might just be the biggest one of them. The issue is well acknowledged in high-level speeches but not much is known about what happens at the regional or local scale. What are the specific issues, how they are dealt with and by whom? To breach this gap, the agricultural European Innovation Partnership (EIP-AGRI) established a Focus Group in spring 2017. 20 experts from different European countries with practical experience and technical knowledge were selected to reflect on the question “Which new management practices and tools can improve the climate mitigation and adaptation potential of EU forests?” The group consisted of farmers, foresters, land- owners, researchers and advisors. During 2018, the Focus Group produced 10 mini-papers that cover the important aspects of forest practices and climate change. The final report of their work was coordinated by Dr. Marcus Lindner from the European Forest Institute (EFI) and published on the 8th of January 2019. You can read the report here.
You thought that humans were the only species that can affect areas far away from where they live? Think again. The forests in India might be the culprits of the rainy days you are having in Germany now.
Recent research has shown that forests and vegetation in general can control the weather across great distances, making the forests and climate even more interconnected than previously thought according to an article published in Quantamagazine. Plants, especially trees, are fascinating organisms: they pump up water from the soil to the atmosphere and simultaneously grab carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into themselves and soils. The features that make this transportation possible are tiny pores on the leaves’ surface, called the stomata. One leaf can have more than one million stomata. So in a large forest the number of stomata is stratospheric and the amount of water they pump can be trillions of liters!
The growing group of researchers studying the interactions between vegetation and climate can now estimate how a forest loss or gain in a certain area can sway the weather patterns in others. One of these scientists is Professor Abigail Swann, the head of the Ecoclimate Lab in the University of Washington. In her recent studies, she has found the teleconnection: the plant communities around the globe are connected by the atmospheric mechanics. Essentially, the effect is similar to that of El Niño, where the warm surface water in the East Pacific Ocean causes heavy rains in South America and Africa as well as drought in Southeast Asia and Australia.
by Andreas Schuck, Alexander Held, Christoph Hartebrodt, Laura Nikinmaa, and Jakob Hörl
When storms are expected to become more frequent and violent, how can we ensure a flourishing future for our forests and the people who depend on them? This was one of the main questions that the SURE project workshop “Res2Storm – pan-European Workshop on Wind, Storms, and Forests” aimed at answering. The objective was to map operational tools and processes for coping with storm events along the crisis management cycle. Emphasis was given to the phases ‘recovery’, ‘prevention/mitigation’ and ‘preparedness’, not neglecting adequate ‘response’. The workshop was hosted by Christoph Hartebrodt and his team from the Forest Research Institute of Baden-Württemberg (FVA) in Freiburg, Germany, on the 11-12th of October 2018. It was the first in a series of thematic workshops within the SURE project dealing with forest risks. It brought together 35 participants from 13 European countries with backgrounds in science, policy and practice.
What does resilience mean to you? Is it the ability to endure stress and still be able to perform? Or the capacity to recover after a catastrophe? Either answer could be right, as the definition of resilience is under a continuous debate. However, as current forest policies advocate building resilience with forest management, they create a point of frustration for forest managers: how do you implement something that you are not exactly sure of what it means in the first place? We tackled this problem with a workshop “Operationalizing Forest Resilience”, that was organised on the 6th and 7th of September 2018 in Bonn. We invited scientists from Europe and the USA to discuss how we can help forest managers to implement resilience in practice. And it is not as easy as you would think.
How does the German forest look like for visitors from the north? There are taller trees and the exotic European beech, but the Norway spruce reminds us of home. We exchanged that and some other thoughts with a delegation from the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry who visited the Bonn Office on the 29th of August. They were hosted by colleagues from the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) who also participated in a field visit to an urban forest in Bonn.
After a brief introduction about the EFI Resilience Programme, we had the opportunity to visit the Jägerhäuschen Marteloscope site, where Uwe Schölmerich, the head of the Regional Forest Enterprise Rhein-Sieg-Erft, kindly guided us.
Despite the obvious differences between German and Finnish forest ecology and management, many of the challenges we face are similar. Bark beetles have been causing damages in both countries for a long time, and the exceptionally hot and dry summer brought forest fires to the agenda in an entirely new way. Halting the loss of biodiversity is also an important part of current forest management and planning even if the systems are different.
Forest managers and other interested groups learn about integrated forest management in both countries. The use of demonstration sites such as e.g. Marteloscopes has proven a valuable tool for educating and creating a dialogue among various interest groups relating to different aspects of forest management. The Finnish delegation at the Jägerhäuschen Marteloscope clearly recognized it. They suggested adding a carbon sequestration component to the I+ software training tool which allows to visualize, how forest management decisions affect the carbon balance of the site and how wood products from harvested wood contribute to store carbon over many years. We thanked the Finnish delegation for this valuable input and expressed our hope that Marteloscopes may also find application in training and education in Finland in the near future.
 Juha Niemelä – The Head of the Natural Resources Unit; Heikki Granholm – Forest Counsellor; Teemu Seppä – Senior Adviser
 Axel Heider – Manager ‘Forestry Department’; Matthias Schwoerer- Head of ‘International Forest Policy Unit’; Aljoscha Requardt – International Forest Policy Unit
On 6th of June 2018, EFI Bonn’s principal scientist Marcus Lindner and I, Junior researcher Laura Nikinmaa escaped tropical Germany to cool down in the Mediterranean Solsona, Spain, and to participate in the conference “COMMUNICATING RISKS IN Decision Support Systems: from basic research to advanced decision support tools” with 30 other researchers. Hosted by the Forest Science Centre of Catalonia (CTFC), the conference was organized by the SuFoRun project and IUFRO’s Risk Analysis working group 4.04.07. The program provided plenty diverse presentations ranging from using real option analysis to deal with uncertainties to effects of bark stripping on wind resistance of Norway spruce.
Strengthening weaknesses is one of the starting points in any management or developing plan, but what to do when even identifying them is tricky? Such is the problem forest managers often face while trying to predict and prevent storm damages to forests. The current models to predict storm damages suffer from lack of data, and the expected increase of severe storms caused by climate change adds its own spice to the mix.