Ecoclimate teleconnections: the globalization of plants

You thought that humans were the only species that can affect areas far away from where they live? Think again. The forests in India might be the culprits of the rainy days you are having in Germany now.

Recent research has shown that forests and vegetation in general can control the weather across great distances, making the forests and climate even more interconnected than previously thought according to an article published in Quantamagazine. Plants, especially trees, are fascinating organisms: they pump up water from the soil to the atmosphere and simultaneously grab carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into themselves and soils. The features that make this transportation possible are tiny pores on the leaves’ surface, called the stomata. One leaf can have more than one million stomata. So in a large forest the number of stomata is stratospheric and the amount of water they pump can be trillions of liters!

The growing group of researchers studying the interactions between vegetation and climate can now estimate how a forest loss or gain in a certain area can sway the weather patterns in others. One of these scientists is Professor Abigail Swann, the head of the Ecoclimate Lab in the University of Washington. In her recent studies, she has found the teleconnection: the plant communities around the globe are connected by the atmospheric mechanics. Essentially, the effect is similar to that of El Niño, where the warm surface water in the East Pacific Ocean causes heavy rains in South America and Africa as well as drought in Southeast Asia and Australia.

A unique database providing information to quantify the adaptive capacity of beech to climate change

A contribution by Marta Benito & Thomas Matthew Robson

A group of researchers from all over Europe worked together to release a unique database to the scientific community. Assembling data collected under the auspices of an EU Cost Action, the database BeechCOSTe52 gathers over 860,000 measurements of phenotypic traits. These data, from more than 500,000 beech trees growing in plantations located in 38 European countries, cover the entire range of beech’s distribution. Over 15 years of work have gone into producing the database; a vital resource for analyzing and understanding the beech’s adaptive capacity to climate change and the potential effects of climate on its distribution range.

Wir brauchen einen klimastabileren Wald – und nicht nur klimaresistentere Bäume!

Gastbeitrag von Hans von der Goltz

Der Wald muss für Eigentümer und Gesellschaft wirtschaftliche, ökologische und soziale Funktionen erfüllen. Wir brauchen einen stabilen Wald und seine Funktionen zum Überleben.
Die Stürme der letzten Jahre, vor allem aber der Jahrhundertsommer 2018 werden insbesondere in den ohnehin schon trockeneren Gebieten Deutschlands zu Auflösungstendenzen des Waldes führen. Seine Wirtschaftsfunktion für die Forst- und Holzwirtschaft mit 1,1 Mio. Beschäftigten, die bisher fast makellose ökologische Vorbildfunktion des naturnähesten bewirtschafteten Ökosystems Wald und die für die Gesellschaft so wichtigen Erholungs- und Trinkwasserschutzfunktionen werden Schaden nehmen.

Die Nachhaltigkeit unseres Waldes ist in Gefahr.

Jeanette Schrewe is a firefighter in Hessen.

The fourth wave of feminism: women and fire

From Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf and Judith Butler to Malala Yousafzai – the so-called fourth wave of feminism has seen people mobilized through social media. Undoubtedly, many have recognized the #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment and assault.

This wave also comes with a claim for cultural products to portray women’s role in history. Long before there was Internet, women in the US were pursuing equal opportunities as they fought wildfires side by side with men in the 1910s. Your Natural Forest magazine recently published “Drawn to Flame: Women Forged by Wildfire”, an article on women who found their way into fighting wildfire.

Siberian fire smoke: where does it go?

The European Union’s Observation Programme, Copernicus, and its Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) predicted that in July smoke from fires in the Sakha, far east of Russia, would travel an astonishing 9500 km – across the Arctic Ocean to Alaska, North-West Canada and the west coast of Greenland.

According to a recent press release, “CAMS Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAS) estimates that between 2003 and 2017 Russian wildfires emitted on average about five mega tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per day. At the end of June this year, the fires suddenly increased in intensity, upping their carbon dioxide output to approximately 20 mega tonnes per day.” This is not new; Siberian summer season is no stranger to wildfires, but being able to predict the movement of the smoke can help to prevent effects of affected areas.

How much CO2 can urban forests store?

A new University College London (UCL) study, published in Carbon Balance and Management, used publicly-available airborne LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data collected by the UK Environment Agency, combined with ground-based LiDAR measurements, to generate a map of carbon stored in an estimated 85,000 trees across the London Borough of Camden.

According to the researchers, urban forest can contain as much carbon as tropical rainforests. They found that areas such as Hampstead Heath store up to 178 tonnes of carbon per ha, in comparison to the median value for tropical rainforests of 190 tonnes of carbon per ha.

“The trees in our cities are important. They matter because they are close to people and are a key component of our urban environment providing beauty, shade and homes for myriad species as well as absorbing carbon and pollutants. The work being carried out at UCL is adding color and detail to this understanding,” said Sir Harry Studholme, Chair of the Forestry Commission.

LiDAR uses millions of laser pulses to build a very detailed picture of the 3D structure of trees. This allows the team to accurately estimate how much carbon the trees have absorbed via photosynthesis during their lives. It also allows them to estimate the carbon sink provided by urban trees, important for helping to offset fossil fuel emissions.

See related articles:

UK urban forest can store as much carbon as tropical rainforests

Urban ‘forests’ can store almost as much carbon as tropical rainforests

Deforestation impact on local temperature

Researchers at the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science (ETH) in Switzerland and the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany recently published their work on deforestation effects on temperature over time in Nature Climate Change. They concluded that the biogeophysical effects of historical deforestation led to significant local increases in temperature over many areas in the world.

A study published earlier this year in Nature Communications also found that forests may have an even bigger cooling effect on climate than expected.

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.