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Category: research

Upcoming webinar: European forest restoration: urgently needed but where and how?

Forest restoration is not all roses – it comes with a range of challenges, too. Therefore, implementing and upscaling restoration measures is essential for their successful restoration. In our upcoming webinar “European forest restoration: urgently needed but where and how?” organized by the SUPERB project and IUFRO‘s Task Force ‘Transforming Forest Landscapes for Future Climates and Human Well-Being’ we will discuss how the habitat status of Europe’s forests is currently assessed, and what role data provided by National Forest Inventories can play to inform about forest restoration in Europe. We will also take a deep plunge into our SUPERB demo areas and discover the real-life challenges they are facing to implement restoration on the ground.

Join us on 8th February 4-6pm CET and register here.

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Unlocking the potential of urban forests

Developing a Local Urban Forestry Action Plan

Are you interested in gaining a quick overview of the huge potential that urban forestry offers to solve environmental, social, and economic challenges in cities? Do you want to learn how increasing the presence of trees and other vegetation in cities can contribute to urban resilience? EFI’s Urban Forestry Team members from the Resilience Programme in Bonn (Juliet Achieng Owuor, Ian Whitehead and Rik De Vreese) have recently been involved in editing and co-authoring a new publication, entitled “Unlocking the Potential of Urban Forests”, which has been the result of a huge effort of some of the world’s leading professionals and researchers in urban forestry.

The publication proposes an integrated vision for urban forestry which delivers multifunctional objectives through the involvement of diverse local stakeholders, whilst effectively responding to wide-ranging sustainability challenges and societal demands. These include the need to fight climate change, to retain biodiversity and to improve overall health and wellbeing of urban citizens through providing everyday opportunities for contact with nature. It proposes practical steps to achieve this vision, whilst considering the bigger picture of how urban forestry can be an effective tool to deliver key aspects of EU policy.

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Taking Green Care to the next level

From social farming to impacts of disconnection from nature on psychological and community resilience to finding science-based strategies to innovate and promote nature-based health and social care: on 7 December around 100 participants from 24 countries across 4 continents joined the final  online event of the Green4C (GreenForCare) project. A mentimeter showed that people came from varying working backgrounds: education, research, Green Care practice, Health care, politics, and more. 

The event was opened with an exciting presentation by Matilda van den Bosch (IS Global) discussing the state of science in Green Care. Green Care stands for a “range of activities that promote physical and mental health and well-being through contact with nature” (1). Her presentation set the scene for the meeting showing how crucial nature is for our physical and psychological health. Next, Deirdre O’Connor (University College Dublin) and Marjolein Elings (Wageningen University & Research) introduced Social Agriculture, one of thematic sectors of Green Care. Especially the video from social farms and gardens brought across the feeling of how much social agriculture can do for physical and mental well-being as well as to strengthen social inclusion. As Jim Hidderley put it in the video “Humanity is not designed to life in a box! Green spaces, fresh air, animals and contact with other people that is, that is the key to life”.

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What Twitter images tell us about COP27 issues: A focus on the Forests and Climate Leaders’ Partnership and Biodiversity Day

In our previous exploration we looked at how Twitter hashtags can help us inquire into emerging public issues around global events like COP27. In our rapid exploration, based on the digital methods recipes developed by SUPERB partners at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London and the Public Data Lab, we identified different ways people engage with forest restoration through keywords like #conservation, #afforestation, and #rewild. Hashtags such as #forestsarenotfuel and #lettreesgrow problematised the economic use of forests. Political matters also came up, linking the Amazon rainforest and changing politics in Brazil.

COP27 was undeniably an important meeting to follow up on last year’s Glasgow Leader’s Declaration on Forests and Land Use, where over 140 world leaders pledged to “halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030”. This year’s COP also saw dozens of governments collectively announcing the Forests and Climate Leaders’ Partnership (FCLP), and the day dedicated to biodiversity acted as a platform to discuss the progress of the Glasgow commitment.

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Health in the city – How can we all get more Green Care?

Mental health issues such as anxiety, stress and depression are especially since the pandemic on a massive rise around the globe (1) and scientific studies have shown that we spend around 90% of our time indoors (2). At the same time the research is becoming more and more clear: nature does not only help to improve our physical but also psychological wellbeing, summarized under the term “Green Care”, standing for a “range of activities that promote physical and mental health and well-being through contact with nature” (3). Several studies have shown that when we spend time in nature our stress levels are lowered (4), our anxiety level decreases (5) and the time spent in forests can even help in preventing or curing burn-out and depression (6). We can reconnect to our emotions which facilitates personal insights and leaves us feeling more connected to ourselves (7) and cope better with stress, which makes us more resilient and positively affects our mood states (8). Furthermore, our social connection can be facilitated when we deeply experience forests together (7). But it is not only humans who benefit from spending time in nature:  There might also be a positive outcome for nature, because research shows that if we feel connected we are more motivated to behave environmentally responsible (9) and support pro-environmental outcomes (10).
But even though research results are so promising, Green Care initiatives often face difficulties due to uncertainties in financing, low public awareness, recognition of the role of such initiatives and there has hardly been any integration into health policy to date. The Green4C project, co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, has been working the last three years towards the innovation and promotion of Green Care. In order to find innovative solutions to mainstream Green Care, six hackathons in six countries were organized, one of which was the Green Care Hackathon on the 23rd of November at the EFI office in Bonn.

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“Imagine there’s a forest” – inspirations from Francis Hallé

Humans originate from arboreal primates, so to really understand the forest, you have to experience it from the canopy. This is what the famous French botanist and conservationist Francis Hallé believes. Despite his respectable age, the spry octogenarian had no issues demonstrating his capability to do so on the tree top path next the biosphere centre in the Pfälzerwald.

Located on the French border, in the middle of the largest contiguous forest in Germany, this centre is the location of the Wasgauer Gespräche/les entretiens du Wasgau. Every second year, this bilingual event brings together people from the French and the German sides of the border to talk about various nature-related topics. This year’s question was: how much nature do humans need? Speaking on behalf of EFI and the Integrate network, I was the only presenter to talk about the pragmatic need for wood, and how integrative forest management can be a solution for providing needed draw materials while also conserving biodiversity. This however does not mean that it is the best solution everywhere. In some places a more intensive management style makes sense, while in others the wise option is to leave nature to itself. And this is exactly the case made by Francis Hallé during the opening session of the event.

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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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8th Annual Integrate Network Meeting: Looking for common approaches for multifunctional forests in Europe

A great asset of an European-wide network, such as the Integrate Network, is to regularly meet and exchange with many interesting colleagues from across Europe on a wide range of highly relevant forest-related topics and issues! Especially rewarding is to visit Integrate Network members in their home countries and get in-depth insight to forests, their management, and related challenges and opportunities. Recently, the current chair of the Integrate Network, Spain, invited the Member Countries and interested participants to gather for the 8th Annual Integrate Meeting in Madrid. In the tradition of meeting in fall, between October 19-21 around 40 participants discussed relevant developments of the Integrate Network and voted on important next steps; shared experiences on forest management approaches in the Mediterranean and went on an excursion to the Valsaín forests where they learned on how the tool of demonstration sites is being applied in education and training for main management challenges.

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COP27 on Twitter: Forest restoration issues and narratives through hashtags

Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has prompted confusion among its users and concerns about the platform’s future. Musk’s tweets are gathering daily attention due to large-scale layoffs and safety concerns around the new paid blue verification mark. To make things worse, as its engineers are on their way out of the door, users are also experiencing various technical glitches on the platform. Millions of users – including journalists, researchers and organisations – are already signing up on alternative platforms to be prepared for the platform’s deterioration and demise.  

While no one can predict Twitter’s future, it remains widely used by politicians, scientists, companies, NGOs and influencers who are still busy posting on the platform. This includes COP27 in Egypt, where Twitter was one of the main platforms to report on the event. #cop27 has been tweeted over 2.85 million times since 5 November 2022.  

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Investigating links between trade and biodiversity

Thanks to global trade, Western societies are not only wealthy but have also access to diverse products. From diapers for our babies or diesel for our cars to the dressing for our salad – the movement of goods in a globalized world allows us to have products for consumption that would otherwise not be available. These can often be everyday products and items taken for granted, so that we don’t necessarily even think of their origins. For example, a typical home would have wooden furniture like tables or shelves. They, or parts of them, could come from wood harvested in Central Africa. Or a common meal could consist of pork meat, where the pork was fed with soymeal processed from soybeans grown in Brazil. Unfortunately, the farming or harvesting of many goods – especially those of biomass like wood or soy – can have negative impacts on the biodiversity of ecosystems, including our forests. As such, the wooden furniture we buy or the pork we eat could be associated with biodiversity loss. In other words, trade becomes the mechanism that links our consumption habits to environmental damage abroad. But, how could we benefit from trade and conserve biodiversity at the same time? 

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