European forests at risk: new challenges and possible solutions

by Johanna Strick & Laura Nikinmaa

The cold Czech winter offered a warm welcome when the participants of the kick-off event of the project “Sustaining and Enhancing the REsilience of European Forest” (SURE) started in Písek, Czech Republic, on 18th of February. More than 50 scientists, practitioners and policy makers from 19 different European countries gathered to exchange experiences with forests risks and related disturbances. Hosted by Pro Silva Bohemica and European Forest Institute, the event was the kick-off for the collaboration towards a European Forest Risk Facility.

Be sure to check out the new SURE project website

The website for the project “SUstaining and Enhancing REsilience of European Forests” – or briefly SURE – is launched. It provides all the important information on the project, upcoming events, as well as material on the RISKplatform, a virtual communication tool for the European Forest Risk community.

If you are interested in experiences from both practice and science on how to best cope with risk and respond to disturbances, if you want to learn about developing and improving response strategies in policymaking and practical management be sure to check out the new website!

Coordinated by European Forest Institute’s Bonn Office and funded by the German Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture, SURE is aiming at enhancing forest resilience and addressing disturbance related risks as an integral part of sustainable forest management through facilitating networking, learning and capacity building.


How to integrate nature conservation and forest management in two days

Wrapping up the results of the InForMAr kick-off meeting

By Johanna Strieck & Laura Nikinmaa

European Forest Institute’s (EFI) Bonn office hosted a two-day’s workshop to kick off the project Integrated Forest Management Learning Architecture (InForMAr). The project aims at conveying existing knowledge related to the implementation of integrated forest management, in order to spread cases of success as well as to address and to fill potential knowledge gaps. To get a background as inclusive as possible, around 30 European policy stakeholders, scientists and practitioners joined the workshop to discuss (and co-design) the research approach of the InForMAr project, and to connect to the project’s networking and policy/practice support activities.

Head of EFI’s resilience program Dr. Georg Winkel introduced the project and drew attention to its integrative character from the beginning: “The main aspect is to create learning sites for policy, science and practice to connect, to enable the identification of driving forces, so to understand and to demonstrate successful cases for adaptation in all contexts.”  Specific training sites, called Marteloscopes, already enjoy great popularity. According to Andreas Schuck, Senior Researcher within InForMAr, stakeholders from all over Europe already express high interest – from practitioners over policy stakeholders to universities.

“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.