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.

 

Let’s let the trees tell us – or: let the trees tell their story

by Patrick Fonti & Ute Sass-Klaassen

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.

Participation and Integration – Forest Management in Slovenia

Simon Poljanšek, you are the new Slovenian national focal point for the European Network INTEGRATE. Would you please introduce yourself?

Simon Poljansek
Simon Poljansek

Growing up on a small farm, surrounded by forest and animals, it was easy for me to connect with nature and outdoor activities, road cycling, photography, animals, and becoming a family man. An obvious choice was to study at the University of Ljubljana Biotechnical Faculty, Department for Forestry and Renewable Forest Resources. I successfully finished my studies there with a rewarded diploma thesis on the analysis of the amount and structure of deadwood in Slovenian forests. My education continued with a doctoral thesis on dendrochronological investigation of Black pine (Pinus nigra Arnold) in the Balkan Peninsula, which I conducted at the Slovenian Forestry Institute. I used different tree-ring parameters (widths, density and stable isotopes) to investigate the influence of climate (temperature, sunshine, precipitation, river hydrology) or other extreme events (forest fires) on trees, growing in various environments from mountainous sites to urban surroundings.

What are you currently working on in the Slovenian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food?

The knowledge obtained on this path I described above is now used for monitoring contents and procedures of forest management plans, and assessing forest resources. Furthermore, I use my scientific experience to review targeted research projects, and to collaborate with my team in the development of the “LULUCF” national forestry accounting plan. Finally, a crucial part of my work is to cooperate in different governmental and other institutional associations with the aim of developing system solutions for the sustainable development of forests ecosystems, resilience and biodiversity, alongside with environmental, production and social forests functions.

Report from the Forum On Catalan Wildfire Research

The Pau Costa Foundation (PCF) and its partners and network form the Wildfire Thematic node within our joint European Forest Risk Facility initiative. PCF called for a Forum meeting on Catalan Wildfire Research on November 6th 2018 in Barcelona. Since Catalonia´s wildfire community is always good for inspiration and pioneering approaches, we would like to share the results here with you.

During one intense and enriching day, the Forum gathered around 80 participants and 45 speakers, presenting and discussing about the ongoing research and management challenges in Catalonia and beyond. Practitioners and scientist from Catalonia exchanged actual scientific results and current needs. 

The motivation of the Forum raises from a well-known gap in the collaboration framework between researchers and forest/fire managers. In fact, these two groups are closer than they have ever been in the last 20 years, yet there is not enough collaboration to have one single voice on wildfire challenges, needs and solutions to reach out efficiently to politicians and society. This is not only a regional or national challenge, but a global one that requires immediate attention by the communities. Events like the Forum on Catalan Wildfire research should be replicated in other regions with the same purpose. 

From this meeting we have accomplished the eight key points that were drawn from the discussions. We have published them in our PCF blog. Furthermore, all presentationsvideos and information about the participant research groups of the Forum are available in the Lessons on Fire.

If you have not yet registered, take this opportunity to engage and discover the wildfire community, where you will be able to share, discuss and get to know people from all around the world here here.

Ökologischer Waldumbau in deutschem Grafenwald

Von Fichtenwald zu Mischwald, von purem Holzeinschlag zu ökologischem Campingplatz und Waldfriedhof – die Grafenfamilie von Hatzfeld setzt seit über 20 Jahren ein beeindruckendes Waldumbau-Projekt um. Mit den Herausforderungen für WaldbesitzerInnen in Deutschland, mit der Balance zwischen Holzernte und Artenschutz, mit Sturmschäden und sogenannten”Ökosystemdienstleistungen” beschäftigt sich die spannende SWR-Dokumentation Die Waldgrafen und der Sturm – Familie von Hatzfeldt erfindet ihren Forst neu. Der etwa 30-minütige Film nimmt dabei sowohl Aspekte der nachhaltigen und vielfältigen Waldnutzung als auch Naturschutz sowie das Ziel der langfristigen Resilienz des Privatwaldes gegen (klimabedingte) Störungen in den Blick.

Together for forests in sustainable cities

EFI and EFUF combining strengths to facilitate urban forest-based solutions employment in Europe

The majority of Europeans are now living in cities and urban agglomerations, facing several environmental issues – including climate change. However, cities are also major drivers and facilitators in finding solutions for handling these challenges. Urban forests – trees, woodlands and forests in and around cities – can play an important role in the transition towards urban resilience and a green and sustainable economy.

Building on their mutual strengths, the European Forest Institute (EFI) and the European Forum on Urban Forestry (EFUF) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding strategic collaboration on research and policy in the field of urban forestry on Friday, 30th November 2018. This collaboration will further the understanding of the potential of urban forests, forestry, nature-, and bio-based solutions in supporting the development of sustainable cities. Both organisations will jointly develop a strategic approach to facilitate the employment of urban forest-based solutions in European cities, through coordinated communication, research and development efforts. Throughout the collaboration, EFI’s forest-based scientific experience and its European-wide science-policy network and EFUF’s multidisciplinary network with local authorities, practitioners and researchers will be complementary in developing a stronger discourse on urban forest-based solutions.

A first common initiative developed within the MoU framework, is the launch of the Call for Abstracts for the 22nd session of the European Forum on Urban Forestry in Cologne (Germany). The EFUF2019 conference has been branded “Urban Forests: Full of Energy” and will focus on the role of urban forests as providers of energy, both through woody biomass and through physical activity, art, learning and collaborative working. EFUF is organised at the “Waldlabor” (Forestlab) in Cologne, which is a magnificent place for exchanging knowledge based on participatory science and experiments.

Veranstaltung “Waldbau und Waldbewirtschaftung im Klimawandel”

Neue Instrumente für den Waldbesitz in Nordrhein-Westfalen

Angesichts der Veränderungen, die sich aus Klimawandel, Digitalisierung und neuen gesellschaftlichen Ansprüchen ergeben, benötigt die Waldbewirtschaftung effektive IT-unterstützte Management-Instrumente. Im Rahmen der Veranstaltung “Waldbau und Waldbewirtschaftung im Klimawandel” stellt das Ministerium für Umwelt, Landwirtschaft, Natur- und Verbraucherschutz des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen (MULNV) am Freitag, den 7. Dezember 2018 in Düsseldorf neue Hilfestellungen des Landes vor, mit denen der Waldbesitz auf die Herausforderungen reagieren kann: das Waldbaukonzept NRW, die landesweite forstliche Standortkarte und das neue Internetportal Waldinfo.NRW.

Bayern: Der Ökologie mehr Gewicht verleihen?

Ich möchte hier eine kürzlich publizierte Pressemitteilung im Holzzentralblatt teilen und kommentieren.

Koalition in Bayern lehnt dritten Nationalpark ab
“Wir wollen überall in Bayern der Ökologie mehr Gewicht verleihen und setzen auf die Stärkung der Naturparks. Einen dritten Nationalpark werden wir nicht realisieren”, heißt es im Koalitionsvertrag, den CSU und Freie Wähler am 5. November unterzeichnet haben. Aber auch: “Wir nehmen dauerhaft rund 10% der staatlichen Waldflächen als nutzungsfreie Naturschutzflächen und Naturwaldflächen von der forstwirtschaftlichen Nutzung aus.” Die Flächen für Vertragsnaturschutz sollen verdoppelt werden. Am unlängst verlängerten “Waldpakt” soll festgehalten werden. Weiter heißt es: “Wir setzen uns das Ziel, bis zum Jahr 2030 rund 200.000 ha klimatolerante Wälder zu schaffen. Wir wollen den Holzbau fördern und die Marktabsatzchancen auch für das Laubholz erhöhen. Waldbesitzer, Holzhändler und Sägewerke sind wichtige Partner bei der Bewirtschaftung der Wälder und der Vermarktung des Holzes.”

Ireland: deer management in native woodlands

The management of deer in native woodlands has become a central issue in recent years. This is primarily due to increasing deer populations, the expansion of forest area through afforestation, introductions of new deer species and the re-distribution/transportation of extant naturalized deer species. Native and broad-leaved woodlands are particularly vulnerable to deer damage through browsing, grazing pressure, fraying and bole scoring. Conservation and wood quality objectives can be seriously compromised.
Negative ecological impacts from excessive deer pressure on woodland structure and ground vegetation community composition has negative knock-on effects on all other assemblages including invertebrates, birds, mammals and soil fauna. Conversely, a sustainable deer presence has positive ecological impacts and recreational value, especially as revenue through game management can be appreciable to woodland owners.