Written by Alexander Held, Andrea Ortiz, Maria Schloßmacher
Two major storms, Eberhard
and Franz, hit Germany and so its most populous state,
North Rhine-Westphalia, last week. Experts are still assessing the full extent
of the damage, but what is clear: this huge damage will have long-term impacts
on forests. It also demonstrates once again the extent of enormous damages that
are caused by storms and the related secondary damages like bark beetle infestation.
Voices of Resilience introduces Rupert Seidl, Professor of forest ecosystem management and Deputy Head of the Institute of Silviculture at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Vienna, Austria. His research focuses on understanding how climate and disturbances affect forest ecosystem dynamics, and on applying this knowledge towards increasing the robustness of forest management in a changing world.
The European Commission recently published a report entitled: Forest Fires, Sparking firesmart policies in the EU.
Forest fires constitute a serious and increasing threat throughout Europe, particularly in Greece, Spain, France, Italy and Portugal. Currently we are also observing more and more fires in the temperate zone of Central Europe. Despite a decreasing trend in the number of fires and areas burned, observed in some countries since the 1980s, larger and more damaging fires (i.e. ‘megafires’) are challenging the suppression capacities of many wildfire protection programmes across Europe.
When you google the term “Resilience”, you get heavily overwhelmed: The term is used in many contexts, both in science and practice, from Psychology to Education, from city planning to climate change adaptation. Obviously, “Resilience” is established jargon, but seems to mean different things in different fields.
On October 27-30th 2018, the storm Vaia hit North-eastern Italy with peak winds of 200 km/h, which compares to a very strong hurricane, and very relevant rainfall. Vaia has not only been the largest single windstorm event in recorded history causing serious damages to the forests in Italy. The storm was also a singular event that has raised unprecedented public attention because it hit some of the most beautiful and most productive forests in Italy located in the Dolomites Mountains, where several UNESCO world heritage sites full of history, culture, and traditions are located. Finally, Vaia caused enormous economic losses: the spruce and fir dominated mountain forests in the region are stocking twice the average biomass per hectare and their growth rates are also approximately double of the Italian average.
After the first shock and quick response to the damages, it became clear that a “multi-actor collaboration” is needed to develop a strategic approach to deal with the aftermath. Consequently, on February 8th 2019, a national congress was held in the Belluno province in the heart of the damaged area to discuss among the Italian scientific and civil community the impact, management and response perspectives after the Vaia storm. The conference was organized by Università di Padova – Dipartimento TESAF, Fondazione G. Angelini, Comune di Belluno, and SISEF – Società Italiana di Selvicoltura ed Ecologia Forestale. Around 600 participants and a large media visibility demonstrated the exceptionally strong interest in the case. Presentations and video are available here.
Summer School in Ireland’s oldest city in June 2019
EFI’s Resilience Programme highly recommends the summer school “Protecting the Forest resource: Risk assessment and Management using Innovative Tools”, jointly organized by EFIPLANT and theWaterford Institute of Technology, taking place from 24-27 June 2019 in Waterford, Ireland.
Forests are facing mammoth challenges, which means that forestry professionals (and those to become) require the best training possible. Overall aim of the summer school programme is to learn how these measurements can be used to make assessments of the levels of forest risks and how they can be combined with other existing forest management tools.
The focus lies on the training with tools to protect forest resources from different hazards. The summer school follows a highly practical approach, where the participants will be introduced and trained in the use of latest technology and techniques for assisting modern forestry professionals in decision making. Starting with an introduction to tools based on mobile phones, drones and computer-based decision support systems, the agenda continues with laboratory sessions to learn how these measurements can be used. The programme offers a mixture of field trips, lectures and laboratory work. The participants will be guided by 20 internationally recognized experts in the field of forest risk management.
An overview of the detailed program you find here , the sessions on Tuesday, June 25 are open for day attendees.
I was in Barcelona on Monday 11 February to participate in the EFIMED event Facing Forest Fires with EU Commissioner Christos Stylianides. The Commissioner explained his rescEU plan aiming at improving the European system to tackle natural disasters in more detail. Immediately, my earlier thoughts on this plan came back to mind: I still think rescEU might have the wrong focus, and we should allocate resources towards wildfire prevention rather than fire suppression.
Stylianides’ speech was followed by four contributions from science, practice and also the policy level. They all had a clear message, that coincides with our European Forest Risk Facility‘s vision (resilient landscapes – adapted communities – adequate response): Instead of more fire fighting aircraft (which is part of rescEU) emphasize must be given to landscape- and forest management, i.e. managing the fuel load, fuel availability, and fuel characteristics to enable safe and effective fire management. Often, this fuel management is addressed through the use of prescribed fire, especially in the Mediterranean.
The III international Prescribed Fire Meeting of Mafra comes as a result of the use of prescribed fire as a land management tool during the last decade, and after the first and second training conducted in 2017 and 2018, with overwhelming positive evaluation by all the participating technicians.
The Mafra 2019 Operational Training, supported by the SURE project and the European Forest Risk Facility initiative, will bring together expert technicians from all around the world ( seven countries) and will create opportunities for knowledge exchange. One of the objectives of this exercise is to make it as practical and operational as possible, simulating a training camp so that participants can strengthen partnerships, spirit of friendship and increase the trustful cohesion of the fire community.
The provisional program may be changed due to weather conditions. Take a look at the program here and here for the list of invited speakers.
Further reading: This is a very interesting, and motivating, blog post from the “Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network”. With some minor adaptions (land use change for instance), this article refers not only to the US but to Europe just as well! Read it, and please consider that, in Europe, prescribed fire is only one tool in the land- and fuel management toolbox.
As humans and animals, trees also perceive their environment. However, differently than humans and animals, trees cannot escape unfavorable situation and thus have to have good mechanisms to face them to survive over decades and centennials. Our COST Action STReESS (Studying Tree Responses to extreme Events: a SynthesiS) focused the attention on understanding how trees respond to a changing environment and on how to collect, use and interpret this information to early and directly assess the impact of extreme climate events on forests. This approach, called the “tree-centered approach”, basically let the trees tell us how strong they perceived a given climatic extreme and how this is affecting them over the following years. With today’s current techniques, this can be monitored in near real time, opening also the possibility to create early-warning systems to assess the health status of our forests.