New York: Urban forestry for the next century

In New York City, urban forests are heavily used for recreation, reports the article A Plan for New York City’s Forests. Yes, Forests., recently published by The New York Times. Unfortunately, city forests in the Big Apple are at stake: Due to climate change and invasive species that can change soil conditions, they risk losing wildlife and plants. A nonprofit group called the Natural Areas Conservancy therefore focuses on how to prepare the city’s forests for a changing climate, supposing that urban forests will be affected a generation or two before differences begin to appear in rural areas. This involves planting tree species resilient to climate change and – of course – requires financial investment. “Now, in close consultation with the Parks Department, the conservancy has prepared a long-term plan for the care of the city’s forests, what it says is the first of its kind in the nation. The conservancy is eager to export it and is training other nonprofit groups in the city to use data from the survey to their advantage”, states the article. More information on how the future urban forest should look like you will find here.

 “We must act to halt and reverse the unsustainable use of nature” – Now

By Theresa Frei & Johanna Strieck

“We must act to halt and reverse the unsustainable use of nature – or risk not only the future we want, but even the lives we currently lead”, says Sir Robert Watson – chair of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). This is but one somber, yet realistic conclusion drawn from the most recent reports on biodiversity and ecosystem services.

By the end of March, IPBES approved four landmark science reports on biodiversity and ecosystem services for different regions of the world and published a report on land degradation and restoration worldwide. These reports, comparable to the IPCC reports on climate change, result from three years of work, involving more than 550 leading scientists from over 100 countries to assess the state of worldwide biodiversity and ecosystem services. The main findings draw a gloomy future, however not without mentioning the one or the other ray of hope.

Turbulent times ahead – and an arc called European Forest Risk Facility?

Do you think that the weather during the last ten years or so has been wilder than during the good old days? Well, it is not just you! A study from European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) shows that extreme weather events have become more frequent over the last 36 years. The increase in frequency can especially be seen in floods and other hydrological events, but also in storms and extreme temperatures, drought and forest fires. It is likely that we are just getting the appetizers and the main course of the more turbulent weather is yet to be served.

The increase in the frequency of the extreme weather events causes more threats to forests. Events that used to occur once in a hundred years might now happen once in a quarter century. Disturbances are also moving to new areas, as seen in the winter fires in Norway in 2014 or wind damages in Catalonian forests the same year. Local knowledge on how to deal with these events might be lacking, which can lead to high economic and sometimes even human losses.

What can be done then to mitigate these changes? In the European Forest Institute, we believe that exchanging the best available information and mutual learning between practice and science across borders is the most efficient way to adapt and deal with the extreme weather. Connecting expert knowledge and the ones in need of it is important in all the faces of crisis management: prevention, preparation, response and recovery.  The European Forest Risk Facility offers exactly that: bringing together experts from science and practice, exchanging knowledge and inspiring to learn new ways to manage forests in the face of more extreme weather. This also involves discussing and thus avoiding to repeat the failures that other have made before. If that happens, a failure can still become a “fantastic failure” to learn from – and the European Forest Risk Facility will provide a platform for that.

How forests can help to build sustainable cities and make them climate-smart

Happy International Day of Forests – and also happy 25th anniversary to European Forest Institute! Check out our new video telling the story how forests can help to build sustainable cities and make them climate-smart.

EFI Bonn’s fire risks expert joins science-media partnership

EFI Bonn’s fire risks senior expert Alexander Held was selected as a mentor for the Climate Change Immersive Story Accelerator Lookout360°, a new 6-month media support programme for journalists and producers who are eager to get started with immersive stories on climate change. The programme is a pilot project of the recently launched science-media initiative The Lookout Station initiated by European Forest Institute and the Global Editors Network.

Together with Alan Rusbridger, former editor-in-chief of Guardian News & Media
and Dr. John M. Reilly, Co-Director of MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, and other mentors, Alexander Held will support a group of 10 journalists by providing his expertise in forest fires, silviculture and deer management.

More information on the programme, trainers and mentors here.

“We need wildfire prevention rather than fire suppression” – EFI-expert responds to EU’s new rescEU plan

The European summer of 2017 had unprecedented amounts of natural disasters happening simultaneously, such as devastating forest fires in Portugal, immense storms in Germany and Greece an the UK, often followed by severe floods. It is estimated that natural disasters cost EU member states about 360 Billion Euro over the past 40 years, while over 200 people lost their lives in fires, storms and floods in 2017 alone.

Threatened by increasing magnitudes of climate change and destabilized by a lack of resources and cross border coordination, the EU faced the fact that something has to change. To boost Europe’s ability to better deal with natural disasters, the European Commission yesterday launched rescEU, an initiative to improve the European system to tackle natural disasters. The intention is to strengthen European response capacities on the one hand, and (maybe) more importantly to improve cooperation and coherence of disaster prevention and preparedness among European countries on the other hand.

“From the perspective of the European Forest Risk Facility hosted by European Forest Institute we welcome the statement of the commissioner, indeed we support his statement for more cooperation and prevention, hand in hand with adequate response to disasters”, says European Forest Institute’s (EFI) own senior expert on Forest-, Fire-, and Wildlife management Alexander Held.  However, we might have the wrong focus, also reflected in media coverage (like the German ZEIT), which so far focuses on the first aspect: suppression and fire control. A misallocation of money and resources, arisen due to misinformed people with a wish for a political spectacle, according to Held. “Large wildfires only occur through a combination of three things: an ignition, severe fire weather and a large contiguous accumulation of fuel. Take away the factors mankind cannot control, and you are left dealing with the accumulation of fuel – thus preemptive fire management. Broad scale fuel reduction burning (or grazing, mulching, mowing, converting to productive, valuable forest) is the only defense we have against large wildfires”, so Held. “Fire control through water bombers has its place, but is – just like any other case of symptom combating –  ineffective when dealing with large wildfires.”

Make sure you do not miss out on Alexander Held’s full statement on rescEU, as he makes a comprehensive case for allocating resources towards wildfire prevention rather than fire suppression. The statement is based on the expertise of the forest fire manager Held and does not necessarily reflect EFI’s viewpoint as an organization.

 

Under the magnifying glass: Private sector commitment to climate protection

On 14th November 2017, in the context of the COP23, the Senate of the Economy together with the European Forest Institute and ForestFinest held a panel discussion on the private sector’s potential to contribute to climate protection. Prof. Dr. Dr. Franz-Josef Radermacher, president of the senate, gave an inspiring key-note speech on how to combat climate change and satisfy global needs at the same time and with that triggered a lively discussion with his fellow speakers. The speakers included EFI’s own Lukas Giessen, principal scientist on International Forest Governance, Anna Rösinger – director of We Forest and Dirk Walterspacher of ForestFinest Consulting. Dr. Christoph Brüssel, from the Senate of the Economy, moderated the discussion.

“REDDy for more? The future of global forest governance”- EFI Side Event @ COP23 in Bonn

Amongst a number of other European Forest Institute’s side event activities and contributions during the climate #COP23 in Bonn, the Institute organised this side event in the prestigious facilities of its new Bonn office, well-located on the UN campus and next door to the climate negotiations. This joint effort between EFI Bonn, the EFI FLEGT and REDD Unit in Barcelona, and the EFI-coordinated SAFARI project was organised by Anna Begemann, Lukas Gießen, Theresa Cashore, Camilla Dolriis, Jo Van Brusselen, Yitagesu Tekle, Jussi Viitanen, and Gesche Schifferdecker, all EFI. More than 50 participants representing government, international organisations, NGOs, academia as well as private companies and consultancy firms attended this vivid discussion event on 11th November 2017.

The climate deliberations of previous years have clearly shown: Forests are a crucial aspect of global approaches to climate change policy, esp. in the tropics. Persistent deforestation and forest degradation cause a huge amount of carbon emissions, while growing forest stock, legal and sustainable forest management as well as the use of wood-based materials are highly capable of mitigating emissions from multiple sources.

First Exchange of Experts of SURE project in Czech Republic – a cooperative learning experience

In Europe, there are almost as many ways to manage forests as there are forest owners. However, many of the challenges they face are the same: how to manage wildlife, how to prevent storm damage and how to ensure successful regeneration in the changing climate, to name just a few. To find the best management practice can be a challenge. One of the most efficient ways to overcome this struggle is to talk to and learn from someone, who has faced a similar problem. European Forest Institute (EFI) and Czech Republic brought together practitioners from different parts of Europe to learn from each other’s experiences in the framework of the SURE (SUstaining and Enhancing REsilience of European Forest) project, coordinated by the EFI Bonn office.

Pro Silva Bohemica and the FRISK (European Forest Risk Facility) secretariat at EFI Bonn office organized an Exchange of Experts to Czech Republic in October 2017, where participants from forest services, wildlife management associations and communal forest owners’ association from different parts of Germany, Austria, Ireland and Czech Republic could meet and learn from one another.

The programme included a vast amount of topics. Participants discussed large scale disturbances and forest die-back, practising close-to-nature forestry and transitioning from monoculture to continuous cover forestry as well as the impact of wildlife on forest management. Risk reduction, resilience and mitigating climate change were also reviewed.

Of different challenges that forest managers face, the deer impact on tree regeneration was one of the most prominent one in Czech. Many tree species, especially Silver fir (Abies alba), need long time protection from deer. As protection of seedlings and older trees is costly, there is an interest to establish a better game management plan. One option is to develop an integrated wildlife management plan that could be implemented with the support of EFI.

The Exchange of Experts is part of the SURE project activities.  See the full report here.

Zahl der Waldbrände in Europa verdreifacht, sagt EFI-Experte

Immer öfter werden in Europa in Zukunft Waldbrände wüten, mehr und mehr Flächen werden von ihnen verschlungen, warnt Waldbrand-Experte Alexander Held vom European Forest Institute in einem Interview mit Euronews. Das betrifft auch Länder, in denen man es absolut nicht erwartet hätte. Die traditionelle Waldbrandsaison habe sich zudem verlängert, so Held.