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. 

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.


Marcus Ittermann, LoCom Media (links) und Georg Winkel (EFI Bonn)

Podcast: Resilienz-Forschung zum Wald

Was bedeutet ‘Resilienz’ im Kontext Wald, und was macht das European Forest Institute (EFI) eigentlich in Bonn? Diese und mehr Fragen beantwortete Dr. Georg Winkel, Forstwissenschaftler und Leiter des Bonner EFI-Büros in einem spannenden Interview mit dem Lokalradio. Mit ihm sprach der Journalist Marcus Ittermann, Redakteur bei Locom Media.

Die Hauptaufgaben des EFI bestehen darin, sich mit Forschungsfragen zum Thema Wald zu beschäftigen, Ergebnisse dieser Forschung in kondensierter Form in die Politik zu bringen sowie durch gezielte Kommunikations- und Pressearbeit die Öffentlichkeit auf verständliche Art und Weise mit Informationen zu versorgen. Neben diesen Aufgaben nimmt sich das Bonner Büro verstärkt dem Begriff der Resilienz an. “Unser Standort soll als ‘Resilienz-Zentrale” fungieren”, so Winkel. Im Mittelpunkt steht die Fähigkeit der Wälder, sich an Veränderungen anzupassen. “Dies betrifft Themen wie den Klimawandel genauso wie den Naturschutz”, erklärt der Forstwissenschaftler. Klimatische Umstände haben enorme Effekte auf den (europäischen) Wald.  Veränderte Bedürfnisse der Menschen spielen jedoch auch eine wichtige Rolle. Hier liege einer der Knackpunkte.

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.

“We need wildfire prevention rather than fire suppression” – EFI-expert responds to EU’s new rescEU plan

The European summer of 2017 had unprecedented amounts of natural disasters happening simultaneously, such as devastating forest fires in Portugal, immense storms in Germany and Greece an the UK, often followed by severe floods. It is estimated that natural disasters cost EU member states about 360 Billion Euro over the past 40 years, while over 200 people lost their lives in fires, storms and floods in 2017 alone.

Threatened by increasing magnitudes of climate change and destabilized by a lack of resources and cross border coordination, the EU faced the fact that something has to change. To boost Europe’s ability to better deal with natural disasters, the European Commission yesterday launched rescEU, an initiative to improve the European system to tackle natural disasters. The intention is to strengthen European response capacities on the one hand, and (maybe) more importantly to improve cooperation and coherence of disaster prevention and preparedness among European countries on the other hand.

“From the perspective of the European Forest Risk Facility hosted by European Forest Institute we welcome the statement of the commissioner, indeed we support his statement for more cooperation and prevention, hand in hand with adequate response to disasters”, says European Forest Institute’s (EFI) own senior expert on Forest-, Fire-, and Wildlife management Alexander Held.  However, we might have the wrong focus, also reflected in media coverage (like the German ZEIT), which so far focuses on the first aspect: suppression and fire control. A misallocation of money and resources, arisen due to misinformed people with a wish for a political spectacle, according to Held. “Large wildfires only occur through a combination of three things: an ignition, severe fire weather and a large contiguous accumulation of fuel. Take away the factors mankind cannot control, and you are left dealing with the accumulation of fuel – thus preemptive fire management. Broad scale fuel reduction burning (or grazing, mulching, mowing, converting to productive, valuable forest) is the only defense we have against large wildfires”, so Held. “Fire control through water bombers has its place, but is – just like any other case of symptom combating –  ineffective when dealing with large wildfires.”

Make sure you do not miss out on Alexander Held’s full statement on rescEU, as he makes a comprehensive case for allocating resources towards wildfire prevention rather than fire suppression. The statement is based on the expertise of the forest fire manager Held and does not necessarily reflect EFI’s viewpoint as an organization.


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