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Category: Climate change

Networks of trust – the foundation for wildfire management

Written by Laura Nikinmaa & Maria Schlossmacher

Imagine having a team of chefs cooking Eggs Benedict. One of them has only ever made omelets; the other one has all the ingredients but no recipe. The third one knows how to do it, but they have been forbidden to cook anything else than scrambled eggs by the owner of the restaurant. On top of everything, they are not talking to one another because they are all competing for promotion. The outcome? You guessed it, anything but Eggs Benedict, the restaurant owner is enraged, and none of the chefs gets a promotion.

While the restaurant world is known to be fiery, the actual world of wildfires is straight up in flames. We have seen abnormally active fire season in 2019 in many countries. Poland had almost three times more fires compared to the 10-year average this year, Germany more than five times more, and France more than seven times more (EFFIS). The cherry on top was the United Kingdom, which had eight times more fires in 2019 than in the 10-year average. It was therefore fitting that the SURE project workshop (“pro-active fire management”) was organized back to back with the England and Wales Wildfire Forum’s (EWWF) Wildfire Conference from 20th to 22nd of November in Cardiff, Wales. The EWWF conference had more than 180 participants from 14 different countries, out of which almost 50 stayed to participate in the SURE workshop on the 22nd. The theme of the conference was “Manage the fuel – Reduce the Risk”. The speakers consisted of experts from practice and research, from fire and rescue services to forest administrates, and the topics varied from practical examples to the latest knowledge we have on wildfire behavior.

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“Ohne Bäume, keine Träume” (Without trees, no dreams)


Three days prior to the start of the UN Climate conference in Madrid, the fourth global climate strike initiated by the “Fridays for Future” movement was held on Friday 29th of November 2019, the same day as “Black Friday”. Worldwide 7 million people in 150 countries protested for more climate protection while simultaneously against excessive consumerism, as it was Black Friday.
In Germany, 630.000 people in around 520 places went on the streets to demonstrate especially under the banner “Neustart Klima” (Restart Climate) against the new German climate programme, which was under ballot in the federal council of Germany at the same time. The currently planned climate progamme is widely named in the media and by protestors “Klimapaketchen” (small climate package) as critics consider it slack and not efficient enough.

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Bitten by the same bug – German spruce in jeopardy

“Scientists alarmed by bark beetle boom” (ScienceDaily, 2019), “French forests scarred as heatwaves bring bark beetle infestation” (Euronews, 2019a), “Czech forest owners face $1.7 billion loss this year from bark beetle crisis” (Euronews, 2019b) and finally “Merkel promises €500m to revitalise German forests” (Guardian, 2019) – these were only some of the many forest-related headlines in European news in the past months.

It is obvious: How weather affects our forests, would not have made it to the news ten years ago – but following the unprecedented hot temperatures, long dry spells as well as severe storm events in Central Europe, everybody was talking about the state of our forests. These extreme weather events are a not only a huge burden for human health but also for entire natural ecosystems. In Germany, extreme temperatures contributed to the extremely dire state of about 180,000 ha of forested area and taxpayer support of 800 million Euros for reforestation measures (FAZ, 2019). In the past, evolution gave flora and fauna the opportunity to adapt to changing environmental conditions and climates but the pace and scale of climatic changes that we experience today, give our natural world a mountain to climb, regardless of the money thrown at the problem.

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Integrating nature protection into forest management the Danish way

Did you know that Denmark has a relatively low forest cover of 14 percent, but nonetheless has great ambitions regarding the ecosystem services they wish those forests to provide? All the more reason to understand more about how they integrate different forest functions into forest management.

I had the chance to find out more about Danish sustainable forest management – or Close-to-Nature Silviculture, as the Danes would call their particular brand – when I participated in the most recent meeting of the European Network INTEGRATE , which is currently chaired by the Danish Nature Agency.

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EFI Bonn looking for a PhD Researcher on Perceptions of Wildfire Risks

The European Forest Institute (EFI) is now looking for a PhD Researcher on understanding perceptions of wildfire risks and related land management at its Bonn, Germany, office.

Deadline for the application is 16 December 2019 COB.

The objectives of the research are:
• To analyse perceptions of fire risk and related concepts of fire (risk) management in different regional and sectoral contexts across Europe amongst a) fire and land management experts, b) land owners and managers in different regional settings;
• To enhance learning and generate transferable knowledge on risk and its management through interconnecting experts across regional contexts.

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Disaster Risk Management via app?

The European Commission’s Disaster Risk Management Knowledge Centre and the Directorate General for Research and Innovation have developed a platform, Gaps Explorer, that collects pre-analysed information on recent and ongoing Disaster Risk Management (DRM) projects and provides recommendations for actions to three groups: practitioners, policy makers and scientists.

The first pilot was developed on Forest Fires. This is a major hazard throughout Europe, producing large environmental and economic losses and having an impact on human lives. Effective forest fire management and decision-making requires science-based information. The analysis of the knowledge, methodologies and technologies produced in the last two decades opens up new perspectives for enhanced forest fire risk management in the face of climate change, social and cultural trends and growth dynamics.

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“Watching trees grow, shrink, drink and breathe”

“This oak tree and me, we’re made of the same stuff, ” Carl Sagan, one of the most inspiring science communicators of the 20th Century once said. But what did he mean?

Probably, he thought of Darwin and his famous universal tree of life, that was used not only as a metaphor, but also as a model and research tool. Furthermore, by choosing an oak tree as a comparison, Sagan might have referred to himself being strong, tall, long-standing. More generally, his quote could refer to the ancient relationship of human beings and the forest. And finally, Carl Sagan obviously used a personification to relate to the tree, to “humanize” it – a common approach in science communication.

By “humanizing” nature, we create empathy. That is one reason why German forester Peter Wohlleben’s book “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—” was so successful. However, Wohlleben is quite controversially discussed among both foresters and scientists. “Not scientific enough,” researchers say. “Too emotional,” forest practitioners complain.

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State-aid to protect Germany’s forests (Waldgipfel)

A devastating combination of heat, drought, fire, storms and beetle plagues have destroyed a remarkable amount of forest area in Germany, as well as in many countries across the globe. To discuss how this affects Germany’s forests and the different measures to counteract the impact of such threats, the Federal Agriculture Minister, Julia Klöckner, convened a Forest Summit on 25 September 2019 in Berlin. On the occasion of the summit, several institutions have published their own position to point out their perspective of what is needed to strengthen climate-resilient forests.

Besides its undoubtedly high value for nature ecosystem services, forests are the largest terrestrial carbon sink we have, and are regarded as highly important for some economies. Last two years, however, many forest owners have faced financial troubles.

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Resilience: what tree rings can say

A single definition of forest resilience is yet to be found, so we decided to establish a series of interviews introducing scientists who deal with this term every day. Meet Ute Sass-Klaassen from Wageningen University. Her research focuses on tree growth in relation to environmental factors. Droughts, flooding, heat waves, fires, and frost events play an important role for productivity and survival of trees and may cause severe disturbances in forest ecosystem services. Knowledge about forest growth and mortality provides valuable information for understanding how surviving trees have reacted to these disturbances and determining basic parameters of a functioning forest ecosystem.

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EFI looks at lowering its own carbon footprint

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires societies to simultaneously work on land-based mitigation options and reduce emissions in other sectors. This means approximately 45% reduction in CO2 emissions from 2010 levels by 2030. As an environmental management trainee at EFI, my task is to look at the environmental impacts of our own work and our daily operations.

In terms of climate change mitigation, the most important categories for EFI are most likely procurement of goods and services, energy consumption and employee work travel

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