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Category: Forest Risks

Showcasing Resilience in a cake

Generally, it can be very challenging to communicate recent research advances in an understandable way to the public. To make it a bit sweeter, a bake challenge was held at the University Freiburg where participants were tasked with transforming PhD topics into appetizing creations. RESONATE researcher Julius Willig couldn’t resist the challenge and presented a cake with 2 forest management scenarios.

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Forests do not end at national borders – how can united knowledge help Europe’s forests?

This is a report made by three representatives from the International Forestry Students’ Association during their voluntary work for the HLPD 2023 organization.

On November 9, government representatives and practitioners from all over Europe came together in Berlin for the second FOREST EUROPE High-Level Talks to address one question: How can sustainable forest management help make Europe’s forests more resilient to the consequences of climate change?

For those who don’t know, FOREST EUROPE is a pan-European forest policy process at the ministerial level in which guidelines, criteria, and indicators of sustainable forest management are developed. And we had the opportunity to be the youth representatives.

What have we seen? What are the bullet points we, the Youth, take from this day full of panel discussions? This is our perspective on the topic of „growing healthier forests“ and the efforts the government representatives make in their countries.

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Wildfire science enters the Spanish Congress 

The work of Oficina C brings science to policymaking in Spain 

In 2019, the church of Notre Dame burnt down. Citizens of Hong Kong took the streets to protest for a better democracy. Students protested against inequality in Chile. The Amazon burned (and the hashtag #PrayforAmazonas went viral). Theresa May resigned as prime minister of the UK, and Simone Biles became the gymnast with the most medals in the history of world championships. Anyone slightly following the news probably remembers most of these events. 

However, in this blogpost I will talk about something else that happened in 2019, in this case in Spain, that went unheard of for most. It was the year when the Spanish Congress approved the creation of the Office for Science and Technology (Oficina C), in order to support a scientifically informed debate in the lower House. And you may wonder why is this relevant at all. It is relevant, because we live in the era of the “post-truth”. An era when fake-news appear on a daily basis, and where online disinformation is a matter of public concern. Making scientific findings accessible for policymakers has always been relevant, but now we need to facilitate evidence-based discussions more than ever.  

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The Vaia storm five years later – lessons for forests and people

By Alberto Pauletto, FSC Italia

At the end of October 2018, tropical storm Vaia brought heavy rains and winds of up to 200 km/h to Northern Italy, killing 37 people and unleashing damage estimated at almost 5 billion euros. Vaia also affected parts of France, Croatia, Austria, and Switzerland, but Italy sustained the worst forestry destruction in its recent history, with more than 14 million trees felled. The Asiago Oltre Vaia project was an initiative of the Municipality of Asiago  –  with the support of numerous entities such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Italia, Treedom, and the University of Padua  –  designed to draw lessons from the catastrophe to create more resistant and resilient forests for the future.

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ForestMoocForChange: join the first free online course on Continuous Cover Forestry

Today forests are under increasing pressure: on one side society demands productivity and multipurpose use, while on the other side there’s increasing pressure from climatic extremes and intensification of forest disturbances.

We need constructive responses to these pressures like integrative forest management approaches and close-to-nature solutions to both enable the multipurpose value of our forest as well as to enhance their biodiversity and resilience in the face of climatic disruption. However, one of the main hurdles to enable new management systems is the general lack of knowledge and expertise on alternative management options available, and we have a solution for that!

ForestMoocForChange is a new and free online course providing an introduction to continues cover forestry, covering the various aspects of this innovative forestry approach over an 8-week period. The course includes numerous videos produced in the field by experts, managers and owners. Each week, a live meeting will be organised with the speakers enabling you to ask your questions and discuss the subject covered. From discovering how continuous cover works and its dynamics, to questions of an economic, ecological or social nature, the MOOC is designed to be comprehensive and aimed at everyone. 

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„Parasitoide spielen eine wesentliche Rolle in Waldökosystemen“ 

Interview mit Axel Schopf zur Erforschung natürlicher Gegenspieler von Forstschädlingen

 Darüber habe ich mit Axel Schopf, Professor i.R. an der Universität für Bodenkultur in Wien und Berater  in dem Team des Eichenresilienz-Projekt gesprochen, in dem European Forest Institute mit dem Landesbetrieb Wald und Holz im Wissenstransfer zusammenarbeitet.

Die Durchführung des Projektes „Erhebung der Parasitoiden der Frostspanner-Arten Operophtera brumata und Erannis defoliaria sowie des Eichenwicklers Tortrix viridanaerfolgt am Institut für Forstentomologie, Forstpathologie und Forstschutz (IFFF) an der BOKU Wien unter der Leitung von Frau Doz. Dr. Christa Schafellner. Ihre Aufgabe war, den Parasitoidenkomplex (Parasitoide = Raubparasiten, die als natürliche Gegenspieler von Schädlingen diese letztlich abtöten) der dominierenden Eichenschädlinge Kleiner und Großer Frostspanner (Operophtera brumata, Erannis defoliaria) und Grüner Eichenwickler (Tortrix viridana) in ausgewählten Eichenbeständen im Münsterland zu untersuchen. Ziel der Untersuchung war es, in Folge die Möglichkeit einer Steigerung der Widerstandsfähigkeit von Eichenwäldern durch bestimmte Förderung und Ausbringung von natürlichen Gegenspielern der Eichenschädlinge zu bewirken.

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Healthy trees translate to healthy citizens

New FORWARDS project will provide crucial information on European forests’ vulnerability to climate change

Climate change has already had a deleterious impact on forests ecosystems and silviculture in various parts of the world. But healthy trees translate to healthy citizens: everyone benefits from forests’ clean air, safe food and water, and recreational space.

With a total budget of €14m funded by the European Commission’s HorizonEurope (plus additional funding by Switzerland and the UK) and more than 19 partners (incl. European Forest Institute) involved, the FORWARDS project (ForestWard Observatory to Secure Resilience of European Forests) will provide timely and detailed information on European forests’ vulnerability to climate change. The project will also deliver science-based knowledge to guide management using the principles of climate-smart forestry, ecosystem restoration, and biodiversity conservation. With its activities, FORWARDS aims at supporting European forests and society to transform, adapt, and mitigate climate-induced changes.

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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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