South Caucasus – Forest Resilience in Georgia

The World Bank contacted the European Forest Risk Facility to provide experts for an assessment mission to Georgia to consult with the World Bank on possible areas for activities and cooperation.

Between 1 and 9 May 2018, we had the opportunity to travel across the forest landscape of Georgia (Overview of Forests and Forest Sector of Georgia). We assessed the current forest risks and overall forestry situation to identify gaps and challenges for the forestry sector. Based on our experiences we will formulate a report on our findings with recommendations for action. These are then available for the active International Organisations in Georgia.

Increasingly, Georgia’s forests are affected by natural disturbances like fire, wind, pest and disease. Changing climate in combination with land-use, illegal logging and overall high levels of poverty in the rural areas are the driving forces.

When a fire starts to burn

Rachel MacManus, Head of Content at Green Lady Media, has gathered insightful information in her article The growing problem of wildfires in Britain and what to do if you see one for the latest edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine. It discusses the different causes, consequences and ways to tackle this problem. “Aside from the cost of tackling these blazes, and resources diverted from emergencies like traffic collisions and house fires, the damage to the natural habitat can be catastrophic,” Rachel explains.

Establishing a European Forest Risk Facility

From pests and insect damages to megafires and storm events – European forests are affected by diverse and often transnational disturbances, with profound impacts on forest ecosystem services and livelihoods. In response to these challenges the European Forest Institute (EFI) together with risk management stakeholders from all over Europe is establishing the European Forest Risk Facility, an innovative platform of exchange and knowledge transfer on forest disturbances, risk prevention and management. Connecting science, practice and policy, the constitution of the Risk Facility is one of the main objectives of the project SUstaining and Enhancing the REsilience of European Forests (SURE) coordinated by EFI’s Bonn Office. The Risk Facility collects and distributes data and information for a better understanding of forest risks and facilitates the exchange of good practices, ultimately enabling better-informed decisions in natural resource management and policy.

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.

Hurricanes and the future of our forests

After Hurricane Maria blast over the Island of Puerto Rico in September 2017, the damage was severe and the aftermath difficult to evaluate. It flooded whole districts and left the island without electrical power for an extensive amount of time. Thousands of acres of Puerto Rico’s forests were damaged, and while it is estimated that 28,000 acres of the National Park El Yunque were destroyed, field research on the ground was still inconclusive. While remote-sensing data – satellite images or laser based measurements – are useful for preliminary results, they cannot replace basic scientific work on the ground.  A recent New York Times article featured a small team of researchers, which took on the task of evaluating Maria’s aftermath in El Yunque and compared ground observations with existing satellite data of the damage. 

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.

 

Urban forestry in Beijing China – report and recommendations

End of January, I (the urban forestry consultant at EFI’s Resilience Programme) was invited by the Beijing Forestry and Parks Department of International Cooperation for a study visit and a training on urban forestry.  China is one of the leading countries when it comes to afforestation: in 2018 alone, about 6.6 million hectare new forests (or the size or Ireland) will be planted. The new forests are not only situated in the rural areas, but also in and near urban agglomerations. In the last Beijing province (area: 16.000 km², inhabitants: 22 million) for example, about 67.000 ha additional forest has been planted over five years, mainly for landscape and aesthetical reasons, but also for recreation purposes. In the next five years, they are aiming for an additional similar area.

Site visits

The study tour started in one of the mayor urban redevelopment projects that Beijing has seen: the 2008 Olympic Quarter. The Olympic Park (680 ha) has been built on former built-up area and farmland, and is situated at the central North-South axis through Beijing which connects the Olympic Park with the central Tiananmen Square. The park includes an artificial lake where soil was reused for building an artificial hill. The composition of the park follows the traditional Chinese design of building with the back to the hills and the front to the water.

SUstaining and Enhancing REsilience of European Forests – Kick-off Workshop

European Forest Institute Bonn in collaboration with Pro Silva Bohemica is organizing a workshop focusing on the mitigation and management of forest related risks on 18.-21. February 2018 in Písek, Czech Republic. The event will particularly address disturbance related risks as an integral part of sustainable forest management. Furthermore the workshop attempts to define the conditions, pre-requisites, roles and functions of a ‘European Forest Risk Facility Secretariat’ and of regional network nodes. Participants will have the chance to benefit from expert knowledge with focal points of challenges to sustainable forest management as well as to experience practices to enhance forest resilience in a field trip.

Please find the agenda here.

For more information please contact Alexander Held.

First Exchange of Experts of SURE project in Czech Republic – a cooperative learning experience

In Europe, there are almost as many ways to manage forests as there are forest owners. However, many of the challenges they face are the same: how to manage wildlife, how to prevent storm damage and how to ensure successful regeneration in the changing climate, to name just a few. To find the best management practice can be a challenge. One of the most efficient ways to overcome this struggle is to talk to and learn from someone, who has faced a similar problem. European Forest Institute (EFI) and Czech Republic brought together practitioners from different parts of Europe to learn from each other’s experiences in the framework of the SURE (SUstaining and Enhancing REsilience of European Forest) project, coordinated by the EFI Bonn office.

Pro Silva Bohemica and the FRISK (European Forest Risk Facility) secretariat at EFI Bonn office organized an Exchange of Experts to Czech Republic in October 2017, where participants from forest services, wildlife management associations and communal forest owners’ association from different parts of Germany, Austria, Ireland and Czech Republic could meet and learn from one another.

The programme included a vast amount of topics. Participants discussed large scale disturbances and forest die-back, practising close-to-nature forestry and transitioning from monoculture to continuous cover forestry as well as the impact of wildlife on forest management. Risk reduction, resilience and mitigating climate change were also reviewed.

Of different challenges that forest managers face, the deer impact on tree regeneration was one of the most prominent one in Czech. Many tree species, especially Silver fir (Abies alba), need long time protection from deer. As protection of seedlings and older trees is costly, there is an interest to establish a better game management plan. One option is to develop an integrated wildlife management plan that could be implemented with the support of EFI.

The Exchange of Experts is part of the SURE project activities.  See the full report here.