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Category: Forest Resilience

Helping journalists report on complex science

On 11-12 July 2019, nine journalists from six media teams visited the Białowieża Forest to attend the ‘Sound Co-Lab Reporting’ – a workshop introducing audio storytelling techniques to report on forest-related issues. The workshop was part of the Lookout Station which aims to bridge the gap between science and media and bring innovation to newsrooms. The event was organized in collaboration with EUFORGEN to bring forest genetics onto the map of interconnected issues needed to decipher today’s complex problems.

Białowieża Forest, a UNESCO-protected site on the border between Poland and Belarus, is known worldwide for its high conservation value and for a history of controversy over conservation and forest management.

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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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When school becomes holiday – Exploring forest resilience from all the angles

It’s funny how one starts to miss the things they previously would have been glad to give up. In my case, I realized I have missed sitting in lecture rooms. That is why I was so eager to participate the summer school “Forest Resilience” organized by the SwissForestLab, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) and NFZ.forestnet. The school took place in Davos, Switzerland from 18th to 24th of August. There were 20 students from 10 different countries and diverse backgrounds.

Resilience is a complex, multiscalar and interdisciplinary issue. It touches topics from tree growth to disturbance regimes, from human behaviour to economics and insurances. The summer school had made considerable effort to fit these different perspectives into a packed but mind-grabbing programme. We started with lectures on the social and economic aspects of resilience. As many of us had more natural sciences background, there was a lot of new information to chew on.

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Resilience: one-off vs continuous disturbance

In an effort to foster a definition of resilience in the forestry field, we decided to establish a series of interviews introducing scientists who deal with this term every day. Today meet Elena Cantarello. She is a lecturer in sustainability science and conducts research on the dynamics and thresholds of ecosystem services at Bournemouth University, e.g. by measuring the resilience of forests in terms of recovery, resistance and net change after climate change, disease outbreak and extensive animal grazing.

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Der tote Taucher im Wald – Gedanken zur Feuerbekämpfung aus der Luft

Vielleicht erinnert sich noch der ein oder andere an den Tatort „Der tote Taucher im Wald“. Ein Löschflugzeug schöpft Wasser, ein Taucher landet in einem Waldbrand…Die gegenwärtige Diskussion über Löschflugzeuge in Deutschland erinnerte mich jedenfalls daran.

Während wir schon jetzt bis August 2019 teilweise überraschende Ausmaße der Waldbrände feststellen müssen, wird kontrovers über den Umgang mit Feuer und den möglichen Löschmöglichkeiten diskutiert. Auch wir haben uns zum Thema integriertes Feuermanagement hier auf diesem Blog hinreichend geäußert und wollen nun auch zur Diskussion über Löschflugzeuge beitragen, im Folgenden ein paar Gedanken.

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EFI as chartered member of PyroLife

Deadly wildfires in the past two years and the heatwave we are facing throughout in Europe this year are a glimpse of what to expect in the future. Therefore, the European Union has granted 4 million Euro for PyroLife, a project in which framework a new generation of experts will be trained in integrated fire management. We are happy to announce that we will take part in the newly established project.

PyroLife is the first integrated doctoral training programme on wildfires globally and will train 15 PhD candidates across Europe, coordinated by Wageningen University & Research.

Within this project, the European Forest Institute will supervise one PhD student and further offers various fire related trainings through the SURE project.

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Können wir durch großflächige Wiederbewaldung den Klimawandel stoppen?

This blog post was translated and is now available in English here

Letzte Woche hat das Magazin Science eine viel beachtete Studie der Arbeitsgruppe von Prof. Crowther vom Institut für Integrative Biologie der ETH Zürich publiziert, in der mithilfe von Satellitenaufnahmen, Felddaten und Computermodellen das enorme Potential von großflächiger Waldvermehrung für den globalen Klimaschutz herausgestellt wurde.

Das Besondere an dieser Studie ist der Fokus auf „Restoration“, also Wiederbewaldung. Es gibt viele Abschätzungen zu CO2 Minderungspotenzialen durch Aufforstungen, und es ist wichtig, bei solchen Abschätzungen den Landbedarf einer wachsenden Weltbevölkerung sowie aus anderen Sektoren realistisch abzuschätzen (Canadell and Schulze 2014). Die Autoren der Studie haben daher von der global theoretisch möglichen Waldfläche den Flächenbedarf für Landwirtschaft und Siedlungen abgezogen. Als Resultat ergab sich eine riesige Fläche von fast 1 Mrd ha für potenzielle Wiederbewaldung.

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