During the months of August and September 2019, the Amazon rainforest fires captured global attention. Celebrities, politicians and other public figures spoke up and shared…
Key narratives on how to harness finance for forests While “cash is king” and “money talks”, the importance of the financial sector for forests has…
Article by Marco Mina
Some time ago we discussed how viewing and analyzing forest landscapes as functional complex networks could be a promising approach to increase ecological resilience to global uncertainty. Now, two new studies show how this could be applied in differently structured landscapes.
Our blue marble planet is one single interconnected organism. From plants to pollinators, preys to predators, climate to primary production, Earth’s natural ecosystems have evolved for million years to build complex and balanced interactions. Forest landscapes are also complex ecological networks, which can be depicted in many ways depending on the scale of observation. For example, if we take a look at a satellite image of a rural area (e.g., an administrative region in Germany or in southern Canada), we will immediately recognize patches of forests fragmented by agricultural crops, roads, powerlines or human settlements. In other areas, forest might cover a larger proportion of the land, resulting in a more continuous matrix. In both cases, a series of interconnected relation exists among tree species, stands, and forest patches allowing the maintenance of vital functions of such ecological system.
Voices of Resilience introduces Rupert Seidl, Professor of forest ecosystem management and Deputy Head of the Institute of Silviculture at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Vienna, Austria. His research focuses on understanding how climate and disturbances affect forest ecosystem dynamics, and on applying this knowledge towards increasing the robustness of forest management in a changing world.
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.
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.
How does the Danish Nature Agency address the trend of rewilding? What are the plans to transition managed forests into forest biodiversity reserves in Denmark – and what are the expected benefits and challenges? We discussed these and other questions with Mogens Krog, Deputy forest officer at the Danish Nature Agency.
Mogens, rewilding is a trend in Denmark now – who are the ones who argue for large connected wild nature areas and no further management? And what is the approach of the Danish Nature Agency?
In Denmark there is a growing interest among nature conservationists and nature conservation NGO’s for large connected wild nature with large herbivores (plant eater). A large area in a Danish context is considered to be 500 ha. Some argue for re-introduction of species which have been part of nature in Denmark in pre-historic time, e.g. wild horses, European bison, moose, and even elephants. Others find domestic animals such as cattle and horses, sufficient to create natural disturbances in nature areas for the benefit of biodiversity.
Denmark is a much regulated landscape with agriculture covering more than 60 % of the land area. Therefore, it may be relative expensive to include private land in rewilding projects Also, in order to avoid major conflicts with agricultural interests, rewilding is likely to be limited to large fences. State owned land is the focus of rewilding interests. In Denmark, state owned land is primarily managed by the Danish Nature Agency under the Ministry of the Environment and Food and covers app. 5% of the total land area in Denmark (210.000 ha).
The project oFOREST, funded by the Federal Office for the Environment FOEN, Switzerland aims at
- identifying and reviewing relevant examples of integrated forest management
- providing an overview over existing principles and concepts
- establishing and maintaining a network of forest expertise and increasing the «tool-box» of management options in multifunctional forest management.
The main product will be a book publication that includes real forest management examples on an enterprise basis and theoretical background chapters on the specific framing situations in forestry across Europe. Influencing factors on developments but also the potentials for adaptations and changes will be analysed for the different regions.
What does resilience mean to you? Is it the ability to endure stress and still be able to perform? Or the capacity to recover after a catastrophe? Either answer could be right, as the definition of resilience is under a continuous debate. However, as current forest policies advocate building resilience with forest management, they create a point of frustration for forest managers: how do you implement something that you are not exactly sure of what it means in the first place? We tackled this problem with a workshop “Operationalizing Forest Resilience”, that was organised on the 6th and 7th of September 2018 in Bonn. We invited scientists from Europe and the USA to discuss how we can help forest managers to implement resilience in practice. And it is not as easy as you would think.
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.