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.

Forest Trends in Denmark – Interview with Mogens Krog

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 Krog
Mogens Krog

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).

Introduction to oFOREST

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.

How can we measure forest resilience? Report from a workshop in Bonn

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.

Deforestation impact on local temperature

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.

First Aerial Ignited Prescribed Fire in Europe

Note: The articles on this blog make no claim to completeness and do not necessarily represent the opinion of the European Forest Institute.

May 2018

I am happy to share some great news with you.  For the first time in Europe, a prescribed burn was implemented using Aerial Ignition with the Raindance R3 Aerial Incendiary device (Aerial Ignition has been used in Australia since the 70’s, but for Europe this was the first time). We are indeed proud that we played a vital role in facilitating this burn, bringing the right people and the right environment together. A real “research-to-practice” and “collect-connect-exchange” (the motto of the European Forest Risk Facility) for risk reduction and mitigation of the impacts of unwanted fires. I truly hope it is influencing a little bit the fire policy making.

Prescribed Burning is the careful and planned application of mild, low-intensity fire to reduce available fine fuel / fuel loads (i.e. burnable vegetation) in a safe way to reduce the negative impacts of unwanted fires and their severity. Prescribed Fire does not avoid wildfires, but it does make them less intense and safer to control. It helps to avoid disaster fires.

Costa Rica: First Central American satellite to monitor forest growth

The Central American Association for Aeronautics and Space (ACAE) and the Costa Rican Institute of Technology (TEC) successfully launched the first CubeSat technology satellite to daily monitor carbon fixation, biomass and environmental variables in a beechwood tree plantation in the northern region of Costa Rica.

Daily tree growth is measured with electronic dendrometers. This information is synchronized with a data aggregator that stores the information to be transmitted to the satellite. This includes weather, solar radiation and soil moisture conditions. This then reaches the ground station, mission control, and a data visualization center, which processes the scientific data to make it available to the public.

Proyecto Irazú was supported through sponsoring companies, government contributions and donations received through Kickstarter. TEC students worked hand in hand with scientists from NASA, the Kyushu Institute of TechnologyDelft University of Technology and Ad Astra Rocket.

Read the full article here.

Can forests be legal entities?

It seems obvious to most of us that specific species, animals, and plants, are protected by special laws and regulations. However, it is getting less natural when we talk about rivers, forests or trees as legal entities. Or maybe rather opposite?

The Guardian has recently published an article “It’s only natural: the push to give rivers, mountains, and forests legal rights” where author Jane Gleeson-White describes a recent tendency in the Western environmental legal system. “This new approach to environmental law was introduced in the US by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, whose first success came in 2006”, writes Gleeson-White. The discussion about legal rights for the environment and its elements, during last ten years, has exceeded debates within environmental philosophy and anthropology and happened to be a focal point of many social movements.

Tree Planting with the Rotary Club

After the international network of the Rotary Club challenged each of its 1.2 million members to plant a tree, 10 clubs from the Bonn area contributed with planting 800 trees – and head of the EFI Bonn office Georg Winkel contributed a speech. On 17th of March 2018, the newest of the Rotary Clubs, RC Bonn International, led the initiative in the Kottenforst, in the Waldau vicinity.

Although temperatures dropped below zero again this past weekend, participants patiently listened to several short speeches and acknowledgements. Georg Winkel was asked to give a short presentation on the benefits of planting trees and their role for a sustainable future. Afterwards, the local forester Sebastian Korintenberg gave some brief instructions for the right planting technique. After everyone was clear on what to do, people had a lot of fun planting the young copper beeches over the course of several hours.

Check out the whole event in pictures here.

“A complex universe of meanings” – anthropological perspectives on the forest

The forest is much more than what is visible on the surface. Thinking about the resilience of future forests one has to remember that for contemporary societies a forest is ‘a complex universe of meanings’. The role of woodlands expands beyond their environmental functions and touches such crucial issues like identity. Trees, forests and green spaces contribute to a sense of belonging, create bounds with place and develop feelings of attachment to a space. The history of forests is always entangled with a history of people who live upon them: foresters, local residents, visitors from cities, ‘ordinary people’. In many countries forests play a significant role in the national culture. There is a conviction about the joint spirit and history manifested in trees and national nature cared for by previous generations. It is believed that the past of a society can be traced in the textures of the land. As a result, trees are not just supposed to grow, but very often they should teach us how and what to remember.

My essay “Trees that must remember” tells a story of the relation between the memory and trees on the example of Polish forests. From my anthropological point of view I am demonstrating how in the contemporary society cultivating nature can at the same time become managing a memory. Based on examples from local forests my essay describes how the forest itself is turned into the synonym for the fatherland and national heritage. In present-day states, natural spaces, including forests, are places where the national myth is played out.