As part of the European Network Integrate, Elisabet Andersson is the Swedish focal point responsible for questions of forest conservation. We spoke with her about the role Swedish forests play for the economy, what measures are taken to both to preserve and to increase biodiversity, and how the Swedish Forest Agency is aiming at improving collaboration between forest professionals, policy makers and societal actors.
SUPERB to promote forest restoration and adaptation across Europe
by Gesche Schifferdecker and Rina Tsubaki
Imagine you were a bird flying over Europe. You would see cities and villages, rivers, agricultural landscape, and forests covering almost one-third of Europe. You will distinguish many different types of trees: dark green or more reddish, straight and tall, wide and crooked or small and slender, with many different shapes of leaves or needles. While flying over Europe, you would also encounter damaged forest areas, burned down by the fire, or destroyed by bark beetles; and tree leaves affected by air pollution and herbivorous pests, or turning yellow and brown from a drought. These disturbances overall are becoming more frequent and severe, be it due to various short-sighted human interventions or ongoing climate change. Luckily, it is not all bad news. From the air, you would also see people working in these damaged forests, planting or seeding new trees, or protecting the naturally regenerating forest against grazing. You would discover people preserving surviving old trees or even the deadwood, because these people have understood how valuable they are for a functioning ecosystem. If done right and with some luck, a diverse and healthy forest will again develop, which will be roamed once more by the many forest creatures.
While there is a widespread awareness of the urgency to conserve and restore biodiversity and halt climate change, in fact much more actions are needed on the ground to ensure long-term thriving of forests in Europe. A series of political commitments at the European level are already in place, including the 2019 European Green Deal, the 2020 EU Biodiversity Strategy and EU Forest Strategy 2030. Yet, in many places a transformative change is still needed on the ground.
EFI report contributes to debate on how to achieve old-growth forest protection targets in the EU
If you ask stakeholders all over Europe “How should we address the remaining old-growth forests?”, you can expect eyebrows to be raised. Most of us agree that despite covering only a small fraction of Europe’s land area, old-growth and other primary forests play an important role in biodiversity conservation and in the provision of other ecosystem services. But other aspects of the topic are constantly debated. Discussions of old-growth forests also have new policy implications, as the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 sets the target to strictly protect all remaining EU primary and old-growth forests. This is part of a wider objective to strictly protect 10% of EU land area.
However, the path to protection is not so straight forward. It starts with questions continuing to circle at policy level and in academia on how old-growth forest should be defined. Similarly, we face unresolved issues on how to implement the targets of the EU Biodiversity Strategy. Aiming at informing discussions related to these questions, European Forest Institute (EFI) recently released a study titled ‘Protecting old-growth forests in Europe – a review of scientific evidence to inform policy implementation’.
Three recently awarded ‘Tree Ci3ties of the World’; City of Ljubljana, Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB) and Brussels Capital Region are taking the lead on promoting the crucial role of urban trees towards greener and more resilient cities and urban regions. Urban trees and forests provide vital infrastructure for healthy and happy citizens, protecting and enhancing biodiversity and co-creating a climate-adapted built environment. The three cities and regions differ in character but have demonstrated a commitment to urban trees within the framework of urban forestry, green infrastructure and the enhancement of local ecosystem services.
Calling it a ‘tree awakening’ and as a partner event of the EU Green Week, the European Forum on Urban Forestry (EFUF), European Forest Institute (EFI) and CLEARING HOUSE project, bring together these three cities and regions to kick-off an activity – focus – celebration of trees on June 11, 10:30-12:30 CEST and to build and strengthen existing relationships at a continental level. The 2-hour interactive online event is targeted at practitioners, researchers, policymakers, journalists and citizens eager to explore ways to work together towards a greener and more resilient future in cities around Europe and beyond.
Forests in Europe are expanding. Despite headlines highlighting threats to forests and their ecosystems, like deforestation and natural disturbances due to the climate crisis, Europe’s forested area is steadily growing. One reason is active afforestation, or planting trees, as a common approach to increase forest area, while forest owners or managers often plant species for future harvesting or other reasons, partially supported by governmental subsidies. Yet, this is not the only explanation for Europe’s growing forested area.
How can we increase the resilience of our forest to be better prepared for future natural disturbances and climate change, while maintaining a high level of wood production, carbon storage, and habitat quality for biodiversity? The project Innovative forest management strategies for a resilient bioeconomy under climate change and disturbances (I-MAESTRO) aims at improving the scientific basis for developing adequate forest management strategies. In an interview series, we are introducing the different I-MAESTRO partners and their roles in the project – and we are sharing very personal perspectives from different researchers involved. The series starts with Matteo Cerioni from University of Ljubljana.
What is the University of Ljubljana (LU) contributing to I-Maestro?
The main contribution of LU is improving information on disturbances and the knowledge on recovery processes following them. More specifically, we are contributing to the update of a European database on forest disturbances and carrying out empirical studies on regeneration dynamics after large disturbances. This involves both collecting new field data (e.g. Slovenian forests subjected to ice storm and following bark beetle; Bulgarian beech forest reserve subjected to wildfire) and gathering and analyzing existing data from other European research groups interested in collaborating. These empirical studies will also serve the models, testing their ability to reproduce recovery processes. Furthermore, we are involved in developing metrics to assess the forest structural complexity resulting from different model simulations. It is considered a key features of forest resilience and includes tree spatial arrangement, size diversity and biodiversity. Finally, we will be involved in the dissemination of results among interested stakeholders.
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic we have begun to reshape the way we think about many things including our work lives, social lives, and health. But what about biodiversity? After weeks of facing the same view from our home office, some of us have started to notice the biodiversity of our gardens and become avid new birdwatchers, running to grab our binoculars whenever we see a new species. Others have started visiting the forest more often and have found peace and comfort in the biodiversity it offers. However, the link between biodiversity and the COVID-19 crisis is much larger than what goes on in our backyards. With the theme of biodiversity, this World Environment Day urges us to address this link and take urgent action in order to safeguard the diversity of life on the planet, and ultimately our own.
Peaceful, tranquil, calm, still: these are all adjectives we might use to describe a walk in the forest. However, the forests we walk in may not always be the picture of serenity we imagine them to be. Behind the scenes some foresters are igniting explosives, firing guns at trees, decapitating ancient giants with chainsaws, and committing other disturbing acts that would make us tree-huggers quick to defend our beloved darlings. However, what we don’t know is that these fierce and seemingly cruel acts are doing just that, defending our forests against harm. It is not a battle against them, but rather a battle for them: the battle to bring back biodiversity.
Written by Lucie Vítková
“Deadwood has a major role for the conservation of saproxylic species and contributes to carbon sequestration, nutrient supply, natural regeneration and protection against falling rocks.” (Lachat et al., 2013:92)*
A substantial amount of literature on the importance of deadwood in Central European forests has been available providing partial recommendations to enhance deadwood-dependent biodiversity. However, a comprehensive review of science- and forestry experts-based recommendations effectively enhancing deadwood bearing in mind operational implications has not been presented in international literature.
Global biodiversity is decreasing at an alarming pace. It occurs in remote wilderness areas but also right at our doorsteps. Nature is everywhere, and it is facing a global crisis. As such, the PopUp Forest movement is activating a civic response to locally address biodiversity loss and drive momentum towards the UN2020 Convention on Biological Diversity.
This event, to be held in China, will gather representatives from 190 countries to reaffirm their commitment to nature. Its positive outcome is of great importance to steer the political decision-making process regarding biodiversity degradation.