Hurricanes and the future of our forests

After Hurricane Maria blast over the Island of Puerto Rico in September 2017, the damage was severe and the aftermath difficult to evaluate. It flooded whole districts and left the island without electrical power for an extensive amount of time. Thousands of acres of Puerto Rico’s forests were damaged, and while it is estimated that 28,000 acres of the National Park El Yunque were destroyed, field research on the ground was still inconclusive. While remote-sensing data – satellite images or laser based measurements – are useful for preliminary results, they cannot replace basic scientific work on the ground.  A recent New York Times article featured a small team of researchers, which took on the task of evaluating Maria’s aftermath in El Yunque and compared ground observations with existing satellite data of the damage. 

Zielorientierte Jagd und klimastabiler Wald – Einblicke in das Projekt BioWild

Das BioWild Projekt wird vom Europäischen Forstinstitut EFI in der Projektbegleitenden Arbeitgruppe PAG unterstützt. Am 1. März 2018 trafen sich Vertreter u.a. von NABU, PEFC Deutschland e.V., dem SDW Bundesverband e.V., der LANUV Wildforschungsstelle und dem Bundesamt für Naturschutz in der Projektregion “Dübener Heide” zum Austausch der aktuellen Entwicklungen in und um das Projekt. Die PAG wurde umfassend informiert, und nach lebhafthaften Diskussion begab man sich in den Wald und an den Ort des Geschehens in der Dübener Heide. Ziel der Exkursion waren die Weisergatter (ohne Wildeinfluß) und die dazugehörigen Vergleichsflächen (mit Wildeinfluß).

In House Fire Training for EFI Bonn staff

by Johanna Strieck and Laura Nikinmaa

To round up an already eventful week at the EFI Bonn, EFI-Senior Expert Alexander Held took us (Laura Nikinmaa, Junior Researcher and Johanna Strieck, Communications Trainee) last Friday, February 24th  to controlled heathland burning to the Drover Heide, nearby Bonn, to learn more on fire management and to get an idea of its practical application in the field. It was a great day for making your first experiences with controlled burning, and the compact small-scale operation on 10-15 ha allowed plenty of time for explanations. Sun exposure and wind speed was quite high and the level of humidity was moderate to high.

European forests at risk: new challenges and possible solutions

by Johanna Strick & Laura Nikinmaa

The cold Czech winter offered a warm welcome when the participants of the kick-off event of the project “Sustaining and Enhancing the REsilience of European Forest” (SURE) started in Písek, Czech Republic, on 18th of February. More than 50 scientists, practitioners and policy makers from 19 different European countries gathered to exchange experiences with forests risks and related disturbances. Hosted by Pro Silva Bohemica and European Forest Institute, the event was the kick-off for the collaboration towards a European Forest Risk Facility.

Paradox: cold weather phenomenon – high fire danger index

Prescribed Fire in NW Germany, 23 Feb 2018

Central Europe is experiencing a rare weather phenomenon:

A polar vortex has caused Arctic air to suddenly warm up and send freezing cold south towards Central Europe, which has already suffered days of frigid weather. The event, known as a Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW), usually chills for two weeks or longer and brings widespread snow. It has not occurred for four years, official government (UK) records show, and last time brought the coldest March for 51 years to Scotland for instance.

However, while Europe is preparing for cold, snow and ice, we can observe a paradox phenomenon: Before the expected snow and ice is arriving, the current weather conditions do indeed increase fire danger. Dry air with RH (relative humidity) dropping as low as 30% and winds gusting up to 60 km/h make ideal conditions to burn winter-dry fuels.

Traditional prescribed burning at this time of the year should be carried out only with wind under 30 km/h and with utmost care.

The Forest Service of Ireland for instance has issued a RED Fire Danger Index for the coming days: FIRE_DANGER_NOTICE_DAFM_ 27_February

Actives fires in western Ireland detected with AFIS Advanced Fire Information System mobile app. 27 Feb 2018…..following the risk analysis and red FDI Warning the day before. Source: C. Nugent

Be sure to check out the new SURE project website

The website for the project “SUstaining and Enhancing REsilience of European Forests” – or briefly SURE – is launched. It provides all the important information on the project, upcoming events, as well as material on the RISKplatform, a virtual communication tool for the European Forest Risk community.

If you are interested in experiences from both practice and science on how to best cope with risk and respond to disturbances, if you want to learn about developing and improving response strategies in policymaking and practical management be sure to check out the new website!

Coordinated by European Forest Institute’s Bonn Office and funded by the German Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture, SURE is aiming at enhancing forest resilience and addressing disturbance related risks as an integral part of sustainable forest management through facilitating networking, learning and capacity building.


Urban forestry in Beijing China – report and recommendations

End of January, I (the urban forestry consultant at EFI’s Resilience Programme) was invited by the Beijing Forestry and Parks Department of International Cooperation for a study visit and a training on urban forestry.  China is one of the leading countries when it comes to afforestation: in 2018 alone, about 6.6 million hectare new forests (or the size or Ireland) will be planted. The new forests are not only situated in the rural areas, but also in and near urban agglomerations. In the last Beijing province (area: 16.000 km², inhabitants: 22 million) for example, about 67.000 ha additional forest has been planted over five years, mainly for landscape and aesthetical reasons, but also for recreation purposes. In the next five years, they are aiming for an additional similar area.

Site visits

The study tour started in one of the mayor urban redevelopment projects that Beijing has seen: the 2008 Olympic Quarter. The Olympic Park (680 ha) has been built on former built-up area and farmland, and is situated at the central North-South axis through Beijing which connects the Olympic Park with the central Tiananmen Square. The park includes an artificial lake where soil was reused for building an artificial hill. The composition of the park follows the traditional Chinese design of building with the back to the hills and the front to the water.

Cui bono? – Discussing aerial forest firefighting

A rough estimate of (business) interest in aerial firefighting

In general, only 10% of a fire management budget is spent on fuel load management for prevention and 90 % are spent on fire suppression. In these 90% the majority again is dedicated to aerial assets. This article would like to stimulate a reflection on how to create more balance in the use of fire management budget. 

This compilation of thoughts on the monetary benefits of aerial firefighting is not intended to be conclusive, but rather a suggestion –  a suggestion that hopefully provokes further conversation among diverse stakeholders about how the urgently needed balance between fire suppression (response) and land- and forest management (prevention, mitigation, resilience) can be reached.

This short text does clearly not intend to say we do not need aerial firefighting. Of course we need any support that we can get while fighting unwanted fires. The intention however is to motivate equivalent political will and budget for prevention and mitigation, for increasing the resilience of the land and to make firefighting safer and more effective.

Deer management for resilient future forests

Across the forest sector in Europe there is broad consensus that resilient forests should regenerate naturally with multiple and different (and site specific) tree species. The more diversity in the regeneration, the better. With a forest use that follows natural processes. By these means, ecological and economic risks are reduced.

Across the forest sector in Europe there is also broad consensus that unbalanced deer densities have a negative effect on tree species composition through selective browsing, bark stripping and fraying.

However, there exists a conflict of interest in different European countries since many years: Should high deer densities for easier hunting be preferred – or should lower deer densities for forest development be favoured? A new dimension is added to this discussion when focusing on biodiversity. Biodiversity of forest systems is seen as an insurance and pre-requisite for resilience with regards to expected climate change. Considering that new dimension, the discussion exceeds the level of forest owner interests vs. hunting interests, it becomes a complex topic for society.

Waldbrandschäden in Bayern: BR-Interview mit A. Held

Wie können Waldbrände im deutschen Winter entstehen? Sollte man die Hitze-geschädigte Fläche neu bepflanzen oder regeneriert sie sich von selbst? Wie reagiert man am Besten nach einem Brand, um die Schutzfunktion des Waldes zu erhalten?  Welche Rolle spielt die Zusammenarbeit zwischen Forstbewirtschaftern und Feuerwehr? Diese und andere Fragen diskutierte EFI-Waldbrand-Experte Alexander Held Anfang Januar 2018 im Bayerischen Rundfunk mit der Journalistin und Moderatorin Birgit Harprath. Anlass war eine Rückschau auf den Jochberg-Brand vor einem Jahr.

Das BR-Interview ist auch als Podcast verfügbar.