New winds in dealing with forest disturbances

For a young professional in the field of forestry, reading the news nowadays is a schizophrenic experience. On one hand, I’m scared to death with the heat waves and drought occurring at odd times of the year, continuously increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, alien species invasions in new areas and massive insect outbreaks in various parts of Europe.  On the other hand, it is very exciting and hopeful: climate change awareness is increasing, and actions are being taken, wood product innovations are replacing many fossil-fuel based ones, and biodiversity conservation measures are adopted by many forest managers. Nevertheless, we are facing a serious situation that cannot be fixed with few tricks. With the disturbance frequency and intensity increasing all the time, we need to revise how we manage the risks they are causing to our forests.

Protecting forest genetic diversity, a common purpose

Written by Silvio Oggioni

In a forest of a hundred thousand trees, no two leaves are alike. And no two journeys along the same path are alike -Paulo Coelho-

Forests are ecosystems full of life, probably the richest on the planet. They host trees, shrubs, grasses, mammals, birds, insects, fungi, in short hundreds of living species. And they are vast: just think that one third of the surface of Europe is covered by forests, and is constantly increasing, according to the State of Europe’s Forests Report of 2015.

Within forests there are thousands of trees, each one slightly different from its neighbour. Trees from different species are obviously different, but even among those belonging to the same species are unique individuals, just like you and me. Each tree is special: more or less resistant, more or less beautiful, with better fruits or more productive. Forest genetics studies the variability of intrinsic traits in a species or individual that can be transmitted to the next generations, which is the very basis of diversity in the forest world. And it is this diversity that allows the dynamic equilibrium on which is based all life in the forests. Protecting genetic diversity of species and individuals is the basis for sustainable management of forest ecosystems. In Europe, more than 50% of woodlands are designated to protect water, soil and the ecosystems!

Managing forests as functional complex networks

Although a variety of forest management approaches to cope with climate change have been proposed worldwide, what has been missing so far is a way to integrate them at appropriate scales, particularly at landscape level, and to put a primary focus on enhancing forest resilience in the Anthropocene.

I suppose that readers of the Resilience blog do not need a long introduction on the myriad of threats that the climatic and global changes pose to forest ecosystems. Mutating climate, drought, unexpected extreme disturbances, sudden shifts in socio-economic conditions but also forest fragmentation, pollution and new pest and diseases are making long-term forest planning more and more difficult. Scientists are still debating on the topic, but many are convinced that we entered in a new geological era: the Anthropocene. How can we therefore manage our forests so that they are more resilient to the high level of uncertainties that characterize this new era?

Fire management in Viking style – looking for solutions together

The North is getting hot! Last year with its uncommonly warm and dry spring and summer caused lot of problems to the forest and agricultural sector in the Nordic countries. In addition, Sweden suffered from extensive wildfires. Due to climate change, summers like 2018 might become the new normal. To address this, the Nordic Council of Ministers launched a project group  that is a collaboration between Nordic Agri Research (NKJ) and Nordic Forest Research (SNS). SNS held a workshop “Nordic forestry in times of extreme weather” in Copenhagen, Denmark, on the 1st of March to discuss amongst the participants from the ministries and fire service, how Nordic collaboration could be strengthened to face the new challenges. Laura Nikinmaa from the European Forest Institute’s Resilience Programme was invited to be a guest speaker together with Marc Castellnou from the Pau Costa Foundation and Martin Vendelbo from the Danish Emergency Management Agency.

Über ökologisches Gold und Borkenkäfer im Bonner Stadtwald

Von Lisa Prior & Maria Schlossmacher

Um über die Waldarbeiten im Bonner Stadtwald aufzuklären, die vielerorts erst einmal auf Unverständnis stoßen, lud das Amt für Stadtgrün der Stadt Bonn für den Nachmittag des 19. Februar 2019 zu einem Waldspaziergang ein. Stadtförster Sebastian Korintenberg gab den interessierten Bonner BürgerInnen Einblicke in die derzeit durchgeführten Holzerntearbeiten und sprach über die Folgen des Borkenkäferbefalls.

Learn to use the right tools for Protecting Forest Resources

Summer School in Ireland’s oldest city in June 2019

EFI’s Resilience Programme highly recommends the summer school “Protecting the Forest resource: Risk assessment and Management using Innovative Tools”, jointly organized by EFIPLANT and the Waterford Institute of Technology, taking place from 24-27 June 2019 in Waterford, Ireland.

Forests are facing mammoth challenges, which means that forestry professionals (and those to become) require the best training possible. Overall aim of the summer school programme is to learn how these measurements can be used to make assessments of the levels of forest risks and how they can be combined with other existing forest management tools.

The focus lies on the training with tools to protect forest resources from different hazards. The summer school follows a highly practical approach, where the participants will be introduced and trained in the use of latest technology and techniques for assisting modern forestry professionals in decision making. Starting with an introduction to tools based on mobile phones, drones and computer-based decision support systems, the agenda continues with laboratory sessions to learn how these measurements can be used. The programme offers a mixture of field trips, lectures and laboratory work. The participants will be guided by 20 internationally recognized experts in the field of forest risk management.

An overview of the detailed program you find here , the sessions on Tuesday, June 25 are open for day attendees.

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.

Uncovering the hidden potential – how European forests can be adapted to climate change

The European forest sector phases numerous demands and challenges, and the need to mitigate and adapt to climate change might just be the biggest one of them. The issue is well acknowledged in high-level speeches but not much is known about what happens at the regional or local scale. What are the specific issues, how they are dealt with and by whom? To breach this gap, the agricultural European Innovation Partnership (EIP-AGRI) established a Focus Group in spring 2017. 20 experts from different European countries with practical experience and technical knowledge were selected to reflect on the question “Which new management practices and tools can improve the climate mitigation and adaptation potential of EU forests?” The group consisted of farmers, foresters, land- owners, researchers and advisors. During 2018, the Focus Group produced 10 mini-papers that cover the important aspects of forest practices and climate change. The final report of their work was coordinated by Dr. Marcus Lindner  from the European Forest Institute (EFI) and published on the 8th of January 2019. You can read the report here.

Participation and Integration – Forest Management in Slovenia

Simon Poljanšek, you are the new Slovenian national focal point for the European Network INTEGRATE. Would you please introduce yourself?

Simon Poljansek
Simon Poljansek

Growing up on a small farm, surrounded by forest and animals, it was easy for me to connect with nature and outdoor activities, road cycling, photography, animals, and becoming a family man. An obvious choice was to study at the University of Ljubljana Biotechnical Faculty, Department for Forestry and Renewable Forest Resources. I successfully finished my studies there with a rewarded diploma thesis on the analysis of the amount and structure of deadwood in Slovenian forests. My education continued with a doctoral thesis on dendrochronological investigation of Black pine (Pinus nigra Arnold) in the Balkan Peninsula, which I conducted at the Slovenian Forestry Institute. I used different tree-ring parameters (widths, density and stable isotopes) to investigate the influence of climate (temperature, sunshine, precipitation, river hydrology) or other extreme events (forest fires) on trees, growing in various environments from mountainous sites to urban surroundings.

What are you currently working on in the Slovenian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food?

The knowledge obtained on this path I described above is now used for monitoring contents and procedures of forest management plans, and assessing forest resources. Furthermore, I use my scientific experience to review targeted research projects, and to collaborate with my team in the development of the “LULUCF” national forestry accounting plan. Finally, a crucial part of my work is to cooperate in different governmental and other institutional associations with the aim of developing system solutions for the sustainable development of forests ecosystems, resilience and biodiversity, alongside with environmental, production and social forests functions.

Borkenkäfer – Fluch oder Segen für unseren Wald in NRW?

2018 war ein katastrophales Jahr für den Wald in NRW – das zeigt auch der kürzlich publizierte Waldzustandsbericht.  Landesumweltministerin Ursula Heinen-Esser kommentierte dazu: “Unsere Wälder sind in einem besorgniserregenden Zustand. Denn durch das Zusammenwirken von Sturm im Frühjahr, gefolgt von extremer Sommertrockenheit und anschließend starkem Borkenkäferbefall in den Nadelwäldern sind die Schäden in diesem Jahr erheblich.” Die massive Population des Borkenkäfers wird derzeit kontrovers diskutiert. Besonders betroffen von dem Befall in NRW sind der Bonner Kottenforst, das Vorgebirge und das Naafbachtal. Laut Regionalforstamt Rhein-Sieg ist die Population des Borkenkäfers so hoch wie seit 1947 nicht mehr.

Während Naturschützer in dem starken Borkenkäferbefall eine regelrechte Bereicherung für die Entwicklung des Waldes sehen, argumentiert auf der Gegenseite die Forstwirtschaft, dass der aktuelle Befall dem Wald langfristig schade, weil er dazu führe, dass ganze Bestände aussterben.

Begünstigt durch den trockenen Sommer konnte sich der kleine Käfer erheblich vermehren. Der BUND (Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland) beschreibt den Populationsschub als Zeugnis der Selbstheilungskräfte des Waldes. Dieser sei damit nicht nur in der Lage, sich an die klimabedingten Veränderungen anzupassen, indem er sich von einem Nadelforst hin zu einem Naturwald entwickele, sondern die Borkenkäfer bedeuten dem BUND zufolge auch einen Nahrungszuwachs für viele Tiere, wie etwa den Specht.

Diese durch den Borkenkäferbefall ausgelösten Veränderungen, die von Naturschützern so positiv bewertet werden, sieht die Forstwirtschaft mit starken Bedenken. Deswegen wurden in den vergangenen Monaten viele Hektar Wald kahlgeschlagen, um der Ausbreitung des Borkenkäfers entgegenzuwirken. Der BUND kritisiert dieses Vorgehen der Forstwirtschaft, da im Zuge der starken Abholzung auch der Waldboden und somit die Lebensgrundlage der Bäume gefährdet würden.

Mehr Hintergrund zu dem Thema und weiterführende Artikel hier:

Artikel im Bonner General-Anzeiger, 06.01.2019

Artikel im Bonner General-Anzeiger, 29.12.2018

Pressemitteilung von Wald und Holz NRW, 31.10.2018

BUND Statement zum Borkenkäfer-Befall im Bayerischen Wald