Extreme Trockenheit führt zu hoher Waldbrandgefahr

Von Alexander Held & Maria Schloßmacher

Aufgrund akuter Waldbrandgefahr herrscht in vielen Regionen Deutschlands und darüber hinaus derzeit die höchste Warnstufe. Bereits vor Ostern musste die Feuerwehr zahlreiche Waldbrände löschen.

Der Waldbrandgefahren-Index des Deutschen Wetterdienstes (DWD) stuft vor allem Brandenburg, den Süden Mecklenburg-Vorpommerns, das nördliche Sachsen und den Osten Sachsen-Anhalts als stark gefährdet ein. Im nördlichen Sachsen dürfen wegen der hohen Brandgefahr einige Wälder nicht von der Öffentlichkeit betreten werden.

Gründe für den Ausbruch des Feuers sind vielfältig und doch leicht auszumachen. Die Kombination aus dem Rekordsommer 2018 und die anhaltende Trockenheit haben den Wäldern zugesetzt, sodass die letzten (Wasser)-Reserven aufgebraucht sind. Sollten sich die Prognosen über ein weiteres Dürrejahr 2019 bestätigen, werden auch die Zahlen der Waldbrände weiter drastisch steigen. Trockene Pflanzenreste und der Wind tragen zum Ausbruch des Feuers bei. Der Wind trocknet altes Gras, noch bevor das neue Grün wachsen kann und begünstigen so die schnelle Ausbreitung des Feuers. Da die Bäume erst langsam beginnen ihre Blätter zu bilden, kann die Sonne ohne Schutz bis auf den Waldboden scheinen und trockenen Pflanzenteile sind leichter entflammbar. Dadurch ist die Waldbrandgefahr im Frühling besonders hoch einzuschätzen.  Wind und Trockenheit, mehr noch als die Temperatur und die warmen Tage über dem Osterwochenende, spielen dabei eine entscheidende Rolle.

You are never too young or too old to learn to love forests

The joint EFI-IFSA-IUFRO project, funded by the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture, recently launched the ‘Dare to Explore!’ traineeship programme. Each year for 2019, 2020, and 2021 the programme will offer four unique, paid traineeship positions at three partnering organizations as well as other international forest related institutions. The traineeship programme aims to enrich students and recent graduates’ formal education and gain insight into science-policy interactions at the international level. In 2019 the traineeships address topics such as forest education, forest restorations, rewilding and rights-based approaches and includes knowledge sharing, literature review, outreach and communication activities.

Managing forests as functional complex networks

Although a variety of forest management approaches to cope with climate change have been proposed worldwide, what has been missing so far is a way to integrate them at appropriate scales, particularly at landscape level, and to put a primary focus on enhancing forest resilience in the Anthropocene.

I suppose that readers of the Resilience blog do not need a long introduction on the myriad of threats that the climatic and global changes pose to forest ecosystems. Mutating climate, drought, unexpected extreme disturbances, sudden shifts in socio-economic conditions but also forest fragmentation, pollution and new pest and diseases are making long-term forest planning more and more difficult. Scientists are still debating on the topic, but many are convinced that we entered in a new geological era: the Anthropocene. How can we therefore manage our forests so that they are more resilient to the high level of uncertainties that characterize this new era?

Beech leaf disease affects American trees and raises concerns for European forests

By: Carrie Ewing, PhD Student at The Ohio State University

We are always happy to have “guest-authors” who give us an insight into their work. Carrie Ewing, PhD Student at The Ohio State University, is currently researching tree genetics to determine the plant pathogen(s) that are causing beech leaf disease (BLD), a new and seemingly lethal disease affecting American beech trees (Fagus grandifolia).  

The disease was first discovered in forests in the northeastern United States and parts of Canada. John Pogacnik, a biologist at Lake Metroparks in Ohio, first observed BLD in 2012 in northeast Ohio, U.S.A.  The disease has been spreading rapidly and has now affected forests in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York State, and Ontario, Canada.

Happy International Day of Forests!

Written by José Bolaños and Maria Schlossmacher

This year the International Day of Forests (IDF) will address the exciting theme “Forests and Education”. It is an occasion to raise awareness, to inform and to educate a broad public, different stakeholders and forest-managers about forest-related topics.

Forests cover one third of land on Earth, and they perform crucial and vital functions around the world. Trees improve our lives both at a grand scale and at the local level. Despite those benefits, deforestation and consequences of climate change are among other great challenges for forests.

Learn to use the right tools for Protecting Forest Resources

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 the Waterford 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.

A Call from the US for the European Forest Risk Facility?

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.

Trees: The silver bullet for fighting climate change?

By Laura Nikinmaa & Maria Schlossmacher

International climate action and therefore climate negotiations are not only about fossil fuels. Forest conservation or forestations became strategies that are (sometimes more and sometimes less) acknowledged around the globe and strategies that are here to stay. The Paris Agreement promotes forest management as a pathway towards halting climate change through the reduction of CO2 emissions. At the end of the climate negotiations, more than 50 countries have pledged to protect existing forests and add tree cover in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, things might not be that simple.

Science writer and reporter Gabriel Popkin recently released an article in NATURE with the provocative title How much can forests fight climate change?”. In his text, he examines several studies arguing that trees do not only influence the climate in one direction. Planting trees in order to take more carbon out of the atmosphere is a highly practical way to combat climate change – as long as the trees are planted in the right place. In boreal forests for instance, forests do cool the climate, so reforestation there is one crucial and applied way to meet the climate goals. However, the question how big of a role forest have in fighting climate change is at the same time diverse and complex. Although forests suck carbon dioxide from the air, they also affect the climate in various ways. For example, trees absorb and reflect light differently. The light-green broadleaves reflect more sunlight back to the atmosphere than the dark conifers and therefore have more cooling effect during the summer. All the trees emit chemical compounds that affect the climate in different ways: some cool the climate, some make it warmer. Planting trees in tundra might not be efficient when aiming at cooling the climate.

Invitation to International Prescribed Fire Meeting (FLAMEWORK)

European Forest Institute’s SURE project and its initiative to establish the European Forest Risk Facility is again supporting a network activity. We are exchanging with fire and forest experts from 7 countries, this time in Mafra, Portugal, 5 to 10 of May 2019

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, a spirit of friendship and increase the trustful cohesion of the fire community.

Through the cooperation with Vallfirest, the European Forest Risk Facility can support the event with hand tools, PPE and drip torches. Very much appreciated indeed.

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.