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Tag: climate change

Experiencing an excursion through the eyes of a forest modeler 

For the RESONATE project, my task aims at developing high resolution future forest trajectories and disturbance maps for the European continent. Continental scale modelling always comes along with trade-offs regarding the detailed processes. Taking this into account, we follow a bottom-up approach, where we use detailed information from local process-based forest simulations to train deep neural networks. For this, we collected forest simulations under different climate scenarios from hundreds of locations across Europe, covering large gradients of environmental and climatic conditions. By combining simulations from different regions, we can explore the relationship between forest dynamics and climate signals using deep neural networks. These neural networks learn to represent forest dynamics depending on environmental and climate conditions, allowing us to upscale the forest dynamics to continental scale. We believe that with this approach we will make a step towards better capturing local scale dynamics at the macroscale.  

But guess what, forest modeling means we spend most of the time in front of our screen, working on code and data that eventually allow a glimpse into the future of forest ecosystems. Although I spend a lot of my leisure time hiking, cycling and sometimes ski touring in the mountains, professionally I spend very little time in the field. Therefore, I was really happy to join the excursion as part of a conference we organized in Berchtesgaden some months ago. The occasion to go to the field with colleagues who spend a lot of time there and visit the system that I am currently modelling is very special and of course informative. And for me, coming from a macroecology background, it is also particularly important to see gradients in the mountain landscape and discuss their impact on vegetation processes as well as disturbances.

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Unlocking the potential of urban forests

Developing a Local Urban Forestry Action Plan

Are you interested in gaining a quick overview of the huge potential that urban forestry offers to solve environmental, social, and economic challenges in cities? Do you want to learn how increasing the presence of trees and other vegetation in cities can contribute to urban resilience? EFI’s Urban Forestry Team members from the Resilience Programme in Bonn (Juliet Achieng Owuor, Ian Whitehead and Rik De Vreese) have recently been involved in editing and co-authoring a new publication, entitled “Unlocking the Potential of Urban Forests”, which has been the result of a huge effort of some of the world’s leading professionals and researchers in urban forestry.

The publication proposes an integrated vision for urban forestry which delivers multifunctional objectives through the involvement of diverse local stakeholders, whilst effectively responding to wide-ranging sustainability challenges and societal demands. These include the need to fight climate change, to retain biodiversity and to improve overall health and wellbeing of urban citizens through providing everyday opportunities for contact with nature. It proposes practical steps to achieve this vision, whilst considering the bigger picture of how urban forestry can be an effective tool to deliver key aspects of EU policy.

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What Twitter images tell us about COP27 issues: A focus on the Forests and Climate Leaders’ Partnership and Biodiversity Day

In our previous exploration we looked at how Twitter hashtags can help us inquire into emerging public issues around global events like COP27. In our rapid exploration, based on the digital methods recipes developed by SUPERB partners at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London and the Public Data Lab, we identified different ways people engage with forest restoration through keywords like #conservation, #afforestation, and #rewild. Hashtags such as #forestsarenotfuel and #lettreesgrow problematised the economic use of forests. Political matters also came up, linking the Amazon rainforest and changing politics in Brazil.

COP27 was undeniably an important meeting to follow up on last year’s Glasgow Leader’s Declaration on Forests and Land Use, where over 140 world leaders pledged to “halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030”. This year’s COP also saw dozens of governments collectively announcing the Forests and Climate Leaders’ Partnership (FCLP), and the day dedicated to biodiversity acted as a platform to discuss the progress of the Glasgow commitment.

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‘Europe’s forests increasingly under pressure from climate-driven disturbances 

Every summer we see in the news flames burning down trees and houses, firefighters pouring water on mountain sides. In the winter we see massive windstorms blowing off entire forest landscapes. We read about very small insects that kill millions and millions of trees in few years. 

In parallel, we are also observing trees becoming political in Europe. Placed at the core of many policy documents and climatic pledges, forests and their climate mitigation potential are being increasingly recognised as key in the critical achievement of European climate and biodiversity targets, as well as for the many other services they provide to society.  

Media and policy attention underline that we urgently need more knowledge and sound research results on how disturbances develop, how they impact European forests and the so-called “ecosystem services” they provide, and how to respond to the seemingly increasing forest disturbance risks. A team of forest researchers from Wageningen University, the European Forest Institute and numerous research institutes across Europe investigated forest disturbances over the past 70 years and can now provide ground-breaking results in the paper “Significant increase in natural disturbance impacts on European forests since 1950” published in the journal “Global Change Biology”. 

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The invisible workforce: seasonal migration in the forest sector 

They help farmers to pick asparagus and support foresters with salvage-cutting bark-beetle damaged trees: The EU – and especially countries like Spain, Poland and Germany – is heavily dependent on so called “seasonal migrants”, either from other EU Member States or third world countries. Bringing the issue closer to home, Germany receives around 300,000 workers per year for agricultural, horticultural and forestry work, many of them from Central and Eastern Europe, especially Poland and Romania. Very often, they remain invisible. We asked ourselves, how many of these workers can we specifically find in the forest sector? What roles do they play and how can these be distinguished from the agricultural sector? How are the working conditions? And what can we do to make this issue more visible?  

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How can the EU double its forests’ climate change mitigation impact by 2050? New Horizon Europe project INFORMA to provide answers

Forests can act as carbon sinks or emitters, as made clear by this summer’s catastrophic forest fires that ravaged southwestern France and the Iberian Peninsula. The devastating events following August’s record heatwave resulted in Europe’s highest wildfire emissions in 15 years. Only in the region of Valencia, Spain, the fires released more than 1 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, equivalent to the annual emissions of all private cars in the three capital cities of the province: Castellón, Valencia and Alicante.

Although climate change played a major role in the catastrophe, the fires were aggravated by rural exodus, which led to the abandonment of forest management in the area and to the accumulation of flammable vegetation, explains José Vicente Oliver, professor at the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV).

In cooperation with EFI, Oliver and his team are looking for ways to prepare the EU’s forests for future climate scenarios and realise their full carbon absorption potential by mainstreaming Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) into more conventional management practices. In the new Horizon Europe project INFORMA, EFI, UPV and other partners are tackling crucial questions around SFM that remain partially unanswered by science, unaddressed by policies and unexplored by most carbon offsetting schemes. How can we manage existing forests in different European biogeographic regions for enhanced carbon capture while ensuring the provision of other ecosystem services such as biodiversity conservation and wood production? Where and how should we grow new forests, and which species should be used? How can we adapt and increase forests’ resilience to more frequent disturbances such as drought, fires, windstorms and pests?

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Sustaining cities, naturally – across 3 continents

The role of cities in the light of the health of people and the planet alike, is undeniably crucial. While cities only make up about 2% of terrestrial areas, more than 50% of the World’s population is already living in cities (Pincetl, 2017). This trend of urbanization is expected to continue to grow into a staggering 65% of the world population living in cities by 2040 (weforum, 2019).  

While poorly planned urbanization can lead to societal challenges such as social deprivation, climate change, deteriorating health and increasing pressure on urban nature, urban ecosystem restoration can contribute to lessen these challenges, through for example implementing nature-based solutions (NBS). Research by the ISGlobal drastically illustrated this: An increase in overall greenness in cities could prevent up to almost 43.000 deaths in European cities every year (ISGlobal, 2021).
On Thursday and Friday, the 13th and 14th of October the webinar “Sustaining Cities, Naturally” focused precisely on these topics: NBS and urban ecosystem restoration. The webinar was jointly organized by four Horizon 2020 projects: INTERLACECONEXUSREGREEN and CLEARING HOUSE as an official side-event of the The European Week of Regions and Cities 2022. By bringing together cities, regions and local authorities, city network representatives, policy makers, researchers, civil society and experts on NBS and urban ecosystem restoration, the webinar was a showcase example of international cooperation in knowledge creation and exchange. With a total of 333 participants on Thursday and 571 on Friday as well as 29 speakers, NBS and urban ecosystems restoration in Europe, China and Latin America were discussed in depth and from various perspectives.  

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“Forest restoration needs to look ahead, not backwards, in face of climate change”: An interview with SUPERB coordinator Elisabeth Pötzelsberger on World Habitat Day

This 3rd of October is World Habitat Day! To celebrate the occasion, Elisabeth Pötzelsberger, Head of Resilience Programme at the European Forest Institute (EFI) and coordinator of the SUPERB project, explained the importance of “prestoration” – the combination of restoration and climate adaptation – for resilient and functional forest habitats. She discussed how it differs from classical restoration approaches, highlighted its relevance to the new EU Nature Restoration Law and listed concrete examples of how prestoration is being applied within the SUPERB demonstration areas in Germany and in the Czech Republic.

Watch the video interview on YouTube or read it below!

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What if digital art and augmented reality could bring us closer to the forests?

by Beatrice Bellavia

Can you evoke the typical scent of a forest? Close your eyes and imagine walking down a path of needles, that is all it takes. But did you know that trees are not only oxygen generators – but produce large amounts of volatile organic compounds?  It is basically as if they were breathing, and this is precisely where the unmistakable forest smell comes from. 

Recently, I have experienced how trees breath – but guess what: not in the forest, but in a museum. It happened when I approached the immersive installation „ATMOSPHERIC FOREST“. In this installation, thanks to the augmented reality technology, I was able to navigate through the „breathing“ trees of the Swiss forest of Pfynwald.  I watched the forest from the bottom up, followed the path through the tree trunk until it brought the eye far up above the trees – yes, like a bird.

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