From jargon to juniper: New interview series “Voices of Resilience”

When you google the term “Resilience”, you get heavily overwhelmed: The term is used in many contexts, both in science and practice, from Psychology to Education, from city planning to climate change adaptation. Obviously, “Resilience” is established jargon, but seems to mean different things in different fields.

Coping with the aftermath of storm Vaia in North-East Italy

by Silvia Abruscato, Gherardo Chirici, Giorgio Matteucci, and Davide Pettenella

On October 27-30th 2018, the storm Vaia hit North-eastern Italy with peak winds of 200 km/h, which compares to a very strong hurricane, and very relevant rainfall. Vaia has not only been the largest single windstorm event in recorded history causing serious damages to the forests in Italy. The storm was also a singular event that has raised unprecedented public attention because it hit some of the most beautiful and most productive forests in Italy located in the Dolomites Mountains, where several UNESCO world heritage sites full of history, culture, and traditions are located. Finally, Vaia caused enormous economic losses: the spruce and fir dominated mountain forests in the region are stocking twice the average biomass per hectare and their growth rates are also approximately double of the Italian average.

After the first shock and quick response to the damages, it became clear that a “multi-actor collaboration” is needed to develop a strategic approach to deal with the aftermath. Consequently, on February 8th 2019, a national congress was held in the Belluno province in the heart of the damaged area to discuss among the Italian scientific and civil community the impact, management and response perspectives after the Vaia storm. The conference was organized by Università di Padova – Dipartimento TESAF, Fondazione G. Angelini, Comune di Belluno, and SISEF – Società Italiana di Selvicoltura ed Ecologia Forestale. Around 600 participants and a large media visibility demonstrated the exceptionally strong interest in the case. Presentations and video are available here.

Trees: The silver bullet for fighting climate change?

By Laura Nikinmaa & Maria Schlossmacher

International climate action and therefore climate negotiations are not only about fossil fuels. Forest conservation or forestations became strategies that are (sometimes more and sometimes less) acknowledged around the globe and strategies that are here to stay. The Paris Agreement promotes forest management as a pathway towards halting climate change through the reduction of CO2 emissions. At the end of the climate negotiations, more than 50 countries have pledged to protect existing forests and add tree cover in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, things might not be that simple.

Science writer and reporter Gabriel Popkin recently released an article in NATURE with the provocative title How much can forests fight climate change?”. In his text, he examines several studies arguing that trees do not only influence the climate in one direction. Planting trees in order to take more carbon out of the atmosphere is a highly practical way to combat climate change – as long as the trees are planted in the right place. In boreal forests for instance, forests do cool the climate, so reforestation there is one crucial and applied way to meet the climate goals. However, the question how big of a role forest have in fighting climate change is at the same time diverse and complex. Although forests suck carbon dioxide from the air, they also affect the climate in various ways. For example, trees absorb and reflect light differently. The light-green broadleaves reflect more sunlight back to the atmosphere than the dark conifers and therefore have more cooling effect during the summer. All the trees emit chemical compounds that affect the climate in different ways: some cool the climate, some make it warmer. Planting trees in tundra might not be efficient when aiming at cooling the climate.

Let’s let the trees tell us – or: let the trees tell their story

by Patrick Fonti & Ute Sass-Klaassen

As humans and animals, trees also perceive their environment. However, differently than humans and animals, trees cannot escape unfavorable situation and thus have to have good mechanisms to face them to survive over decades and centennials. Our COST Action STReESS (Studying Tree Responses to extreme Events: a SynthesiS) focused the attention on understanding how trees respond to a changing environment and on how to collect, use and interpret this information to early and directly assess the impact of extreme climate events on forests. This approach, called the “tree-centered approach”, basically let the trees tell us how strong they perceived a given climatic extreme and how this is affecting them over the following years. With today’s current techniques, this can be monitored in near real time, opening also the possibility to create early-warning systems to assess the health status of our forests.

News from our Marteloscope network

We are happy to share that our network of Marteloscopes is continuously expanding both in terms of number of sites and countries. New countries joining the Integrate Marteloscopes network are Luxembourg, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Spain. They are currently either in the process of setting up sites or have indicated to establish them in the coming months. Countries already having established Marteloscopes are adding additional ones as e.g. the Czech Republic, France, Germany (also increasing the coverage across Federal States), Poland and Switzerland. All in all we can look forward to increasing the total number of Marteloscopes by at least 25 new sites (adding to a total of then around 65) in the course of 2019.

Not only is the their number growing but also their application. Many events were implemented by different ‘Marteloscope managers’ during the second half of 2018. They varied from Marteloscope visits during field excursions to tailored training schools. In particular the value for silviculture training has gained momentum and goes as far as investigating options of embedding Marteloscopes in training curricula. The range of topics also does not stop at nature conservation aspects in managed forests but addresses also other aspects (such as silvicultural treatments and climate change impacts). We also continue to collect feedback from our network on what further applications are seen for Marteloscopes and the corresponding I+ software. Examples are exporting exercise results to growth simulators and adding new training modules to the software including topics such as climate change and carbon sequestration.

A recent development is the interest of pedagogic universities in Marteloscopes. They see good potential in using them within school education programmes. Concluding, we would like to draw attention to our ‘I+’ software store webpage. It serves as access point to downloading the ‘I+’ software components, provides software tutorials, contact details to established Marteloscope sites and a range of supporting documents.

Conference “Temperate and boreal primeval forests in the face of global change”

An international scientific conference dealing with “Temperate and boreal primeval forests in the face of global change” is organized by The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) and the Ukrainian National Forestry University in Lviv, Ukraine, on 2-4 September 2019. The conference will be hosted by the Ukrainian National Forestry University.

The goal of this conference is to bring together the global community of scientists working on the ecology and dynamics of temperate and boreal primeval forests, and their interactions with local people. The participants are offered the opportunity to present their current research and to discuss how global change might affect temperate and boreal primeval forests. Apart from contributions on primeval forests, the organizers also welcome those dealing with formerly managed forests which are protected as forest reserves and on the pathway to become primeval forests again. They also encourage to submit contributions dealing with effects of the surrounding forests on primeval forests and their relation to societal needs. Ukraine is a particularly suitable place for this conference since it still harbors large primeval forest remnants.

The provisional program of the conference includes plenary sessions with keynote talks, sub-plenary and poster sessions, a plenary discussion and a post-conference excursion. Proposal submission for talks and posters as well as registrations will open on 28 February 2019.

You can find the preliminary agenda and information here.

Celebration of the EFI - IFSA - IUFRO

Equipping young forest leaders for a changing work environment

New Joint EFI-IFSA-IUFRO Project on “Global student networking and green jobs” analyses changing employment in the forest sector and prepares current forest students and young scientists for future leadership.

The forest sector has been facing significant changes in recent years due to various challenges including globalization, international trade, and climate change.

Naturally, this has also changed the nature of forest sector employment. Forestry careers have expanded beyond traditional forest administration and industry jobs. New ‘green jobs’ match a broader societal awareness for forest ecosystem services, climate change mitigation and adaptation, environmental education, recreation, tourism, and nature protection, for example. These shifts in labour market trends call for a new generation of graduates with a strong foundation of knowledge in the context of current global issues.

“The crucial question we need to answer is: Are we, the world’s forestry students of today, prepared for the new expectations and skills society is placing in our hands as future land managers and forest policy decision makers?” emphasises Dolores Pavlovic, President of the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA).

A new project run by European Forest Institute (EFI) in close collaboration with IFSA and the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) has now been started to tackle this question. The joint project is generously funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) and will be hosted by EFI in Bonn, Germany.

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.