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.

“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.

 

Under the magnifying glass: Private sector commitment to climate protection

On 14th November 2017, in the context of the COP23, the Senate of the Economy together with the European Forest Institute and ForestFinest held a panel discussion on the private sector’s potential to contribute to climate protection. Prof. Dr. Dr. Franz-Josef Radermacher, president of the senate, gave an inspiring key-note speech on how to combat climate change and satisfy global needs at the same time and with that triggered a lively discussion with his fellow speakers. The speakers included EFI’s own Lukas Giessen, principal scientist on International Forest Governance, Anna Rösinger – director of We Forest and Dirk Walterspacher of ForestFinest Consulting. Dr. Christoph Brüssel, from the Senate of the Economy, moderated the discussion.

Kick-off Workshop of Integrated Forest Management Learning Architecture (InForMAr)

The Kick-off workshop of the project Integrated Forest Management Learning Architecture (InForMAr) will take place on 7th and 8th of December 2017 in the new premises of European Forest Institute’s Bonn Office.

Altogether around 30 European policy stakeholders and scientists will meet to discuss goals of the InForMAr project. The participants’ task will be to look at relevant questions relating to the integration of nature conservation in Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) through integrated forest management approaches in Europe. This involves e.g. the discussion of forest functions, of socioeconomic driving factors and how they determine the work of practitioners as well as the question of how forest policy can better support the implementation of integrative forest management.
The workshop aim is to build a network of practitioners, scientists and European policy stakeholders interested in the issue of integrated forest management. The result of the discussions of the workshop will be used by the InForMAr researchers and will be examined for the next stage of the project.
The keynote speakers incude: Yoan Paillet (IRSTEA), Lena Gustafsson (SLU), Metodi Sotirov (University of Freiburg), Susanne Winter (WWF Deutschland), Peter Löffler (DG Environment), Eckart Senitza (Pro Silva Europe), Robert Flies (Luxembourg Private Forest Owners).
Keynote speeches will be followed by group discussions focusing on driving forces for integrated forest management. During the event the movie, “Wise use of our forests: the integrative approach” produced by InForMAr researcher Andreas Schuck will be screened.

The InForMAr Project is funded and supported by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture and follows the projects Integrate and Integrate+.