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Resilience Blog Posts

Helping journalists report on complex science

On 11-12 July 2019, nine journalists from six media teams visited the Białowieża Forest to attend the ‘Sound Co-Lab Reporting’ – a workshop introducing audio storytelling techniques to report on forest-related issues. The workshop was part of the Lookout Station which aims to bridge the gap between science and media and bring innovation to newsrooms. The event was organized in collaboration with EUFORGEN to bring forest genetics onto the map of interconnected issues needed to decipher today’s complex problems.

Białowieża Forest, a UNESCO-protected site on the border between Poland and Belarus, is known worldwide for its high conservation value and for a history of controversy over conservation and forest management.

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Disaster Risk Management via app?

The European Commission’s Disaster Risk Management Knowledge Centre and the Directorate General for Research and Innovation have developed a platform, Gaps Explorer, that collects pre-analysed information on recent and ongoing Disaster Risk Management (DRM) projects and provides recommendations for actions to three groups: practitioners, policy makers and scientists.

The first pilot was developed on Forest Fires. This is a major hazard throughout Europe, producing large environmental and economic losses and having an impact on human lives. Effective forest fire management and decision-making requires science-based information. The analysis of the knowledge, methodologies and technologies produced in the last two decades opens up new perspectives for enhanced forest fire risk management in the face of climate change, social and cultural trends and growth dynamics.

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“Watching trees grow, shrink, drink and breathe”

“This oak tree and me, we’re made of the same stuff, ” Carl Sagan, one of the most inspiring science communicators of the 20th Century once said. But what did he mean?

Probably, he thought of Darwin and his famous universal tree of life, that was used not only as a metaphor, but also as a model and research tool. Furthermore, by choosing an oak tree as a comparison, Sagan might have referred to himself being strong, tall, long-standing. More generally, his quote could refer to the ancient relationship of human beings and the forest. And finally, Carl Sagan obviously used a personification to relate to the tree, to “humanize” it – a common approach in science communication.

By “humanizing” nature, we create empathy. That is one reason why German forester Peter Wohlleben’s book “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—” was so successful. However, Wohlleben is quite controversially discussed among both foresters and scientists. “Not scientific enough,” researchers say. “Too emotional,” forest practitioners complain.

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A SINCERE interest in forest ecosystem services

“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” -John Muir

Forests have more to offer than timber and wood products. Through its multifunctional nature, it provides several other goods and services such as carbon sequestration, erosion control and the provision of clean water. These benefits which people obtain from forests can collectively be referred to as “forest ecosystem services”.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) 2005 report classifies ecosystem services into three categories:

  • Provisioning services (e.g. food, fresh water, firewood)
  • Regulatory services (e.g. climate regulation, carbon sequestration)
  • Cultural ecosystem services (nonmaterial benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation, and aesthetic experiences)
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State-aid to protect Germany’s forests (Waldgipfel)

A devastating combination of heat, drought, fire, storms and beetle plagues have destroyed a remarkable amount of forest area in Germany, as well as in many countries across the globe. To discuss how this affects Germany’s forests and the different measures to counteract the impact of such threats, the Federal Agriculture Minister, Julia Klöckner, convened a Forest Summit on 25 September 2019 in Berlin. On the occasion of the summit, several institutions have published their own position to point out their perspective of what is needed to strengthen climate-resilient forests.

Besides its undoubtedly high value for nature ecosystem services, forests are the largest terrestrial carbon sink we have, and are regarded as highly important for some economies. Last two years, however, many forest owners have faced financial troubles.

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Resilience: what tree rings can say

A single definition of forest resilience is yet to be found, so we decided to establish a series of interviews introducing scientists who deal with this term every day. Meet Ute Sass-Klaassen from Wageningen University. Her research focuses on tree growth in relation to environmental factors. Droughts, flooding, heat waves, fires, and frost events play an important role for productivity and survival of trees and may cause severe disturbances in forest ecosystem services. Knowledge about forest growth and mortality provides valuable information for understanding how surviving trees have reacted to these disturbances and determining basic parameters of a functioning forest ecosystem.

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Forest Governance: How to orientate in the labyrinth of international forest policies?

By Lukas Giessen and Carmen Rodríguez

In this Blogpost Lukas Giessen and Carmen Rodríguez, both EFI staff, provide us with an insight into a recently published article on the numerous elements of international forest-related policy. The paper indicates that the many policies addressing forests in a way or another are fragmented and often conflict with one another, possibly leading to unsuccessful forest protection efforts of many governments around the globe. But this fragmentation is also found to hold promise for actors in finding allies to their own missions.

Because it is quite tricky to identify the actually relevant elements of a fragmented set of international policies, we developed a new method for mapping the entire governance architecture of international forest policy, using the United Nations Forum on Forests’ (UNFF) deliberations as key reference.

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When school becomes holiday – Exploring forest resilience from all the angles

It’s funny how one starts to miss the things they previously would have been glad to give up. In my case, I realized I have missed sitting in lecture rooms. That is why I was so eager to participate the summer school “Forest Resilience” organized by the SwissForestLab, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) and NFZ.forestnet. The school took place in Davos, Switzerland from 18th to 24th of August. There were 20 students from 10 different countries and diverse backgrounds.

Resilience is a complex, multiscalar and interdisciplinary issue. It touches topics from tree growth to disturbance regimes, from human behaviour to economics and insurances. The summer school had made considerable effort to fit these different perspectives into a packed but mind-grabbing programme. We started with lectures on the social and economic aspects of resilience. As many of us had more natural sciences background, there was a lot of new information to chew on.

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EFI looks at lowering its own carbon footprint

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires societies to simultaneously work on land-based mitigation options and reduce emissions in other sectors. This means approximately 45% reduction in CO2 emissions from 2010 levels by 2030. As an environmental management trainee at EFI, my task is to look at the environmental impacts of our own work and our daily operations.

In terms of climate change mitigation, the most important categories for EFI are most likely procurement of goods and services, energy consumption and employee work travel

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Resilience: one-off vs continuous disturbance

In an effort to foster a definition of resilience in the forestry field, we decided to establish a series of interviews introducing scientists who deal with this term every day. Today meet Elena Cantarello. She is a lecturer in sustainability science and conducts research on the dynamics and thresholds of ecosystem services at Bournemouth University, e.g. by measuring the resilience of forests in terms of recovery, resistance and net change after climate change, disease outbreak and extensive animal grazing.

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