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Category: Forest Risks

Experiencing an excursion through the eyes of a forest modeler 

For the RESONATE project, my task aims at developing high resolution future forest trajectories and disturbance maps for the European continent. Continental scale modelling always comes along with trade-offs regarding the detailed processes. Taking this into account, we follow a bottom-up approach, where we use detailed information from local process-based forest simulations to train deep neural networks. For this, we collected forest simulations under different climate scenarios from hundreds of locations across Europe, covering large gradients of environmental and climatic conditions. By combining simulations from different regions, we can explore the relationship between forest dynamics and climate signals using deep neural networks. These neural networks learn to represent forest dynamics depending on environmental and climate conditions, allowing us to upscale the forest dynamics to continental scale. We believe that with this approach we will make a step towards better capturing local scale dynamics at the macroscale.  

But guess what, forest modeling means we spend most of the time in front of our screen, working on code and data that eventually allow a glimpse into the future of forest ecosystems. Although I spend a lot of my leisure time hiking, cycling and sometimes ski touring in the mountains, professionally I spend very little time in the field. Therefore, I was really happy to join the excursion as part of a conference we organized in Berchtesgaden some months ago. The occasion to go to the field with colleagues who spend a lot of time there and visit the system that I am currently modelling is very special and of course informative. And for me, coming from a macroecology background, it is also particularly important to see gradients in the mountain landscape and discuss their impact on vegetation processes as well as disturbances.

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‘Europe’s forests increasingly under pressure from climate-driven disturbances 

Every summer we see in the news flames burning down trees and houses, firefighters pouring water on mountain sides. In the winter we see massive windstorms blowing off entire forest landscapes. We read about very small insects that kill millions and millions of trees in few years. 

In parallel, we are also observing trees becoming political in Europe. Placed at the core of many policy documents and climatic pledges, forests and their climate mitigation potential are being increasingly recognised as key in the critical achievement of European climate and biodiversity targets, as well as for the many other services they provide to society.  

Media and policy attention underline that we urgently need more knowledge and sound research results on how disturbances develop, how they impact European forests and the so-called “ecosystem services” they provide, and how to respond to the seemingly increasing forest disturbance risks. A team of forest researchers from Wageningen University, the European Forest Institute and numerous research institutes across Europe investigated forest disturbances over the past 70 years and can now provide ground-breaking results in the paper “Significant increase in natural disturbance impacts on European forests since 1950” published in the journal “Global Change Biology”. 

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Talking through research landscapes

Reflections on inter-generational interactions in science and the potential of young scientists 

Imagine you are sitting in a room full of people for three days. Listening to a lot of presentations which do not necessarily light up your interests. You make the effort to resist the temptation of checking your mailbox. Feeling guilty for seeing work accumulating, knowing you will have to address part of it at night, alone in your hotel room. Eventually, you will be presenting your work and – if you are lucky – have an awesome 20 minutes of lit discussion and feedback. But after that, you will rely on coffee again to fight back the gravity attacking your eyelids, especially in the post-lunch sessions. You will be looking forward for the drinks at the end of the day to socialize a bit and get to know people. 

In my short, young scientist’s experience, that’s how I’ve portraited – and experienced – scientific conferences. 

A (much needed) alternative 

Well, the latest conference I attended was absolutely nothing of the above. 

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Wrangling resilience from concept to forest management application

Record breaking temperatures, minimal rainfall, drying rivers and burning forests. The news from this summer show how acutely the warming climate is affecting our environment and lives. To me, the damages to forests due to fires, drought and insect outbreaks are particularly worrisome as we as a society are counting on forests to sequester our carbon emissions, to replace the fossil fuel products and to foster biodiversity that is rapidly declining. This concern on the capacity of forests to cope with increased disturbances started years ago and led me to pursue a PhD on forest resilience and how it could be improved with forest management. Now it is time to summarise my work from the last four years.

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How we can better understand our forest ecosystems with laser scanning

by Luiza Tyminska and Jean-Matthieu Monnet

If you want to investigate the influence of management on forest resilience after disturbances, you can of course put your walking shoes on and do field measurements. However, how can you evaluate forest areas of several hundreds of square kilometers? In forest science, we consider Airborne Laser Scanning (ALS) a strong solution for mapping forest characteristics – including forests’ internal structure – at high resolution over wide areas. ALS is a remote sensing technology based on the emission of laser pulses. The laser light can penetrate the tree canopy and reflect on objects located inside the forest, or even by the ground. The Earth’s surface is then modelled as point clouds in three dimensions with geometric information on the height of the vegetation, but also on its internal structure. In the project Innovative forest management strategies for a resilient bioeconomy under climate change and disturbances (I-MAESTRO), we used ALS for two purposes: describing the forests to get an initial state for simulations, and analysing forest dynamics with repeated measurements.

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Is European forest management out of alignment with natural patterns in disturbances?

by Joshua Brow, University of Vermont

European forests are in trouble. “Not because they’re being lost,” says University of Vermont scientist William Keeton. “Europe, actually, is greener and more heavily forested now than it has been in centuries.” But many of the continent’s forests are suffering major insect outbreaks, forest disease problems, increasing frequencies of wind-storms, and more-intense fires.
To help give forest managers and policymakers new options, Keeton and a large team of European scientists completed an extensive, multi-year study of forests in thirteen countries across the continent.

Their results show that most current forest management in Europe doesn’t imitate the patterns of nature—specifically, the complex patterns created by natural disturbances that leave behind a mosaic of tree types, ages, and sizes; standing and downed dead wood; and highly variable, resilient landscapes.

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What does social media engagement around the Amazon rainforest fires tell us about public narratives? – Takeaways from our analysis

During the months of August and September 2019, the Amazon rainforest fires captured global attention. Celebrities, politicians and other public figures spoke up and shared…

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Die Zukunft des Waldes in NRW – Diskussion mit Politikvertreter*innen

Von Holzbau und Windkraft im Wald zum Lebensraum für zahlreiche Pflanzen und Tiere, vom Erholungsort für uns Menschen zum CO2-Speicher: Wir sind heute mehr denn je auf die vielfältigen Leistungen unserer regionalen Wälder angewiesen. In Zeiten von Klimawandel und intensiven Störungen wie Sturm, Dürre und Borkenkäfernmüssen wir uns aber auch verstärkt die Frage stellen, wie wir diese Leistungen in Zukunft sichern können. Eine gemeinsame Antwort auf diese Herausforderungen hat die Landesregierung NRW im Dezember 2019 mit Verbänden aus Forst- und Holzwirtschaft, Naturschutz und Berufsvertretung formuliert, in dem sie den Waldpakt „Klimaschutz für den Wald – unser Wald für den Klimaschutz“ unterzeichnet hat.

Nur gesunde und vielfältige Wälder können ihre Potenziale für den Klimaschutz, die nachhaltige Rohstofferzeugung und die biologische Vielfalt voll ausschöpfen – aber was sind die politischen Ziele rund um den Waldpakt, und wie stehen Vertreterinnen und Vertreter der im Land und/oder Bund regierenden Parteien im Jahr 2022 dazu?

Aus Anlass der anstehenden Landtagswahl in NRW, veranstalten die am Waldpakt beteiligten Verbände, auf Initiative des Forstvereins NRW am 5. April von 18-19:30 Uhr eine Diskussionsrunde mit politischen Entscheidungsträgerinnen über die verschiedenen Handlungsfelder des Waldpaktes. Damit sollen alle am Wald Interessierten Gelegenheit bekommen, sich über die zukünftigen politischen Ziele rund um den Wald in NRW zu informieren. Die Anmeldung erfolgt über Eventbrite: Die Zukunft des Waldes in NRW – Diskussion mit Politikvertreter*innen Tickets, Di, 05.04.2022 um 18:00 Uhr | Eventbrite

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