As the Resilience Programme of the European Forest Institute, we are looking for evidence-based ways to improve resilience in the European forests. However, a brief discussion in the office revealed that even among our staff there are almost as many interpretations of resilience as there are staff-members. We needed to have a clearer understanding on what resilience means in the context of forestry.
Dr. Peter F. Moore, Forestry Officer, Forest Fire Management & Disaster Risk Reduction, in the FAO-Forestry Department originates from Australia and posted the following statement in response to the ongoing wildfire crisis:
“In January 1994 there were four fire related deaths, hundreds of thousands of hectares burnt and fingers of fire crept into the city of Sydney.
- Parliament, the cabinet and the coroner held inquiries and released reports on the reasons, causes of death and the possible means of avoiding the same problems in the future.
On Christmas Day 2001, the concerns of fire authorities in New South Wales were realised – in full measure. The lead-up to summer conditions had been drier than normal. December 25, 2001 was hot with temperatures well over 30C; very low humidity of less than 15 per cent; and winds from the west. These bush fires burnt nearly 700,000ha, with 115 houses and many other buildings destroyed and scores of others damaged.
- And Parliament and the coroner held inquiries and released reports on the reasons and the causes …
“This oak tree and me, we’re made of the same stuff, ” Carl Sagan, one of the most inspiring science communicators of the 20th Century once said. But what did he mean?
Probably, he thought of Darwin and his famous universal tree of life, that was used not only as a metaphor, but also as a model and research tool. Furthermore, by choosing an oak tree as a comparison, Sagan might have referred to himself being strong, tall, long-standing. More generally, his quote could refer to the ancient relationship of human beings and the forest. And finally, Carl Sagan obviously used a personification to relate to the tree, to “humanize” it – a common approach in science communication.
By “humanizing” nature, we create empathy. That is one reason why German forester Peter Wohlleben’s book “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate” was so successful. However, Wohlleben is quite controversially discussed among both foresters and scientists. “Not scientific enough,” researchers say. “Too emotional,” forest practitioners complain.
A single definition of forest resilience is yet to be found, so we decided to establish a series of interviews introducing scientists who deal with this term every day. Meet Ute Sass-Klaassen from Wageningen University. Her research focuses on tree growth in relation to environmental factors. Droughts, flooding, heat waves, fires, and frost events play an important role for productivity and survival of trees and may cause severe disturbances in forest ecosystem services. Knowledge about forest growth and mortality provides valuable information for understanding how surviving trees have reacted to these disturbances and determining basic parameters of a functioning forest ecosystem.
In an effort to foster a definition of resilience in the forestry field, we decided to establish a series of interviews introducing scientists who deal with this term every day. Today meet Elena Cantarello. She is a lecturer in sustainability science and conducts research on the dynamics and thresholds of ecosystem services at Bournemouth University, e.g. by measuring the resilience of forests in terms of recovery, resistance and net change after climate change, disease outbreak and extensive animal grazing.
Written by Lucie Vítková
“Deadwood has a major role for the conservation of saproxylic species and contributes to carbon sequestration, nutrient supply, natural regeneration and protection against falling rocks.” (Lachat et al., 2013:92)*
A substantial amount of literature on the importance of deadwood in Central European forests has been available providing partial recommendations to enhance deadwood-dependent biodiversity. However, a comprehensive review of science- and forestry experts-based recommendations effectively enhancing deadwood bearing in mind operational implications has not been presented in international literature.
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.
Simon Poljanšek, you are the new Slovenian national focal point for the European Network INTEGRATE. Would you please introduce yourself?
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.
In this article, I talk about the “mode of competition”, in other words whether trees of different species compete more of aboveground or belowground resources when growing in mixed stands. Additionally, I highlight the advantage of mixed forests in the context of climate change.
If you have read some of my articles like What factors determine whether tree species compete or complement each other?, you know how much I like mixed forests. Forests rich in tree species not only are known for providing higher levels of ecosystem services but also be prompter to cope with unexpected disturbances and climatic changes. However, the mechanisms of competitions in multi-species forests are all but clear. Scientists are still studying which combinations of tree species grow better in a particular environment or what factor promote or reduce a positive growth complementarity in secondary forests and/or plantations. In one of my latest posts on the blog Forest Monitor I have tried to explain in simple terms the concept of how complementarity for a give species can be positive or negative when growing in association with other species depending on resource availability.
The European Forest Institute is seeking two Junior Researchers to join its Resilience Programme, to conduct a global research and capacity-building project related to the…