How forests can help to build sustainable cities and make them climate-smart

Happy International Day of Forests – and also happy 25th anniversary to European Forest Institute! Check out our new video telling the story how forests can help to build sustainable cities and make them climate-smart.

“A complex universe of meanings” – anthropological perspectives on the forest

The forest is much more than what is visible on the surface. Thinking about the resilience of future forests one has to remember that for contemporary societies a forest is ‘a complex universe of meanings’. The role of woodlands expands beyond their environmental functions and touches such crucial issues like identity. Trees, forests and green spaces contribute to a sense of belonging, create bounds with place and develop feelings of attachment to a space. The history of forests is always entangled with a history of people who live upon them: foresters, local residents, visitors from cities, ‘ordinary people’. In many countries forests play a significant role in the national culture. There is a conviction about the joint spirit and history manifested in trees and national nature cared for by previous generations. It is believed that the past of a society can be traced in the textures of the land. As a result, trees are not just supposed to grow, but very often they should teach us how and what to remember.

My essay “Trees that must remember” tells a story of the relation between the memory and trees on the example of Polish forests. From my anthropological point of view I am demonstrating how in the contemporary society cultivating nature can at the same time become managing a memory. Based on examples from local forests my essay describes how the forest itself is turned into the synonym for the fatherland and national heritage. In present-day states, natural spaces, including forests, are places where the national myth is played out.

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.

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.

Creating a sustainable and inclusive forest-based bioeconomy in Europe

New EFI study assesses the scientific evidence

by Rach Colling

The bioeconomy has mobilised significant investments in technology, research and innovation. New and innovative bio-products and related services have emerged, and related niche markets show dynamic growth. The future of the bioeconomy, however, raises questions relating to its development potential, but also its sustainability.

The science-based study Towards a sustainable European forest-based bioeconomy – assessment and the way forward provides a synthesis of existing knowledge for policymakers on the importance of forests and the forest-based sector in contributing to the future European bioeconomy. It assesses the economic, social and environmental sustainability of a forest-based bioeconomy, and looks at issues that may affect its development.

No fire without smoke – forest fires deteriorate air quality

Fire is not only a threat to forests and livelihoods in the rural areas. As the forest fire season takes on entirely new dimensions by getting longer and more intense, fire – and smoke related health hazards increase, warned an international study published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics and reported by PhysOrg.

Burning vegetation releases small particulates, that are dangerous even in small quantities. According to the study, in countries with effective measures to reduce air pollution, wildfire emissions are not causing the average annual levels of small particles to surpass the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended thresholds. However, emissions from fires do increase air pollution severely, which in turn can have grave consequences for human health. According to WHO,  the range of health effects of the small particulates is broad, but are predominantly to the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. In principle, the longer the exposure to small particulates is, the more severe the impact on health is.

Tragically, it is estimated that more than 700 000 hectares of land have burned in 2017 alone. The data from European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) points out that the majority of fires were caused by human activities. Additionally dry conditions paved the way for small fires to turn into uncontrollable wildfires. Both conditions, on the bright side, indicate that there is potential for fire prevention.

Currently, air quality policies do not include wildfires and the emissions they cause. Additionally, up until this point there is no widely approved way to manage wildfires. In the light of the late megafires, there is an urgent need to collaborate on the international level to find the best approach to manage and prevent wildfires. For the sake of our forests and our health.

Read the entire news article here.

Heute noch bewerben: SDW-WorkCamp Brasilien-Deutschland zu nachhaltiger Waldbewirtschaftung

Auf nach Brasilien und den Wald entdecken! … und die Brasilianerinnen und Brasilianer in unseren Wald einladen!

Im aktuellen Projekt „Internationales WorkCamp – Junge Erwachsene für nachhaltige Waldbewirtschaftung“ der SDW-Schutzgemeinschaft Deutscher Wald wird das möglich. Durch direkten Austausch in der Amazonasregion und in Deutschland sollen Wissen zu nachhaltiger Waldbewirtschaftung aufgebaut und in Wald-WorkCamps kreative Bildungsmaterialien entwickelt werden. Die Teams arbeiten interdisziplinär und setzten sich aus jeweils acht jungen Erwachsenen aus Brasilien und Deutschland unterschiedlicher Studiengänge (Forst, Umwelt, Design, Kommunikation, Marketing, Kunst, etc.) zusammen.

Interessierte Studierende aus Deutschland sind eingeladen, sich bis zum 20.11.2017 bei der SDW-Schutzgemeinschaft Deutscher Wald zu bewerben. Die Teilnahme, Reise und Unterkunft für alle Veranstaltungen sind kostenlos.

Weitere Informationen finden Sie hier oder über 

Palm oil plantation (photo by Tim Cadman)

Governing the forests: how fiscal instruments can act as a (dis)incentive to reducing emissions

In recent years, the concept of ‘governance’ rather than ‘government’ has become a popular term for describing the interactions between stakeholders in the sustainable development policy arena. In this context, especially in the arena of forest management, it is used to describe the structures and processes that steer, or co-ordinate the relations between multi-stakeholders (government, business, civil society). Usually, governance refers to human actors, but there are other forces that exercise influence over how forests are managed. One of the most important of all these, is that most essential resource: money. This brief report outlines the role that public finance, and most importantly the fiscal instruments developed by governments, can have a considerable influence over the fate of the world’s forests.

Research undertaken by the author in 2016-2017 investigated the extent to which fiscal incentives encouraged, or discouraged, private sector involvement in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) initiative known as REDD+ (“Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries”).

In Indonesia, REDD+ has been recognized as a potentially significant source of revenue, while at the same time providing an important incentive to contribute to reductions in global deforestation. However, in a series of interviews and surveys, forest-based business stakeholders identified a number of issues impacting on their ability to undertake activities that would lead to reducing deforestation and forest degradation, and emissions.

What contribution can the private sector make to climate protection? COP23 side-event

On the occasion of the COP23 UN Climate Change Conference, Senat der Wirtschaft, together with the European Forest Institute (EFI) and Forest Finest, will hold a panel discussion on the commitment of the business sector to climate protection on 14 November 2017, 4-6pm.

The discussion on What contribution can the private sector make to climate protection and how can such projects be implemented in practice? will take place in the Bundeshaus, Platz der Vereinten Nationen 7, 53113 Bonn (opposite the Marriott Hotel) in the conference room on the 1st floor.

On the panel we present:

  • Prof. Dr. Dr. Franz-Josef Radermacher (Member Club of Rome, President Senat der Wirtschaft)
  • Dr. Lukas Giessen (European Forest Institute)
  • Dr. Symphorien Ongolo (Universität Göttingen)
  • Dirk Walterspacher (Forest Finest)
  • Anna Rösinger (WeForest)

Host will be Dr. Christoph Brüssel (Senat der Wirtschaft).

“REDDy for more?” Join EFI’s side event for COP23 and explore the future of global forest governance

Join our panel-audience discussion on the possible future of global forest governance focusing on the tropics on Saturday the 11th of November 2017, 13.00 – 15.00 in the new premises of EFI Bonn at Platz der Vereinten Nationen 7 in Bonn. Strong current trends and likely future scenarios, which may build on but also go beyond REDD+ initiatives will be key themes.

The climate deliberations of previous years have clearly shown that forests are a crucial aspect of global approaches to climate change policy, esp. in the tropics. Persistent deforestation and forest degradation cause a huge amount of CO2 emissions, while growing forest stock, sustainable forest management as well as the use of wood-based products and materials are capable of mitigating emissions from multiple sources.