Modern storms, modern technologies – is AI the future of forest risk management?

Strengthening weaknesses is one of the starting points in any management or developing plan, but what to do when even identifying them is tricky? Such is the problem forest managers often face while trying to predict and prevent storm damages to forests. The current models to predict storm damages suffer from lack of data, and the expected increase of severe storms caused by climate change adds its own spice to the mix.

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 Strieck & 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.

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.

“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.

 

Predicting forest risks and building up resilient societies

International Workshop by NetRiskWork in Solsona explored resilience and adaptive capacity of European forest landscapes by promoting knowledge exchange and networking

How do different natural disturbances affect forests; in what way do they interact and influence each other? What are the challenges for forests in times of climate change? How do natural disturbances affect society and what can we do to mitigate risks? To what extend are risks predictable, and how do we need to shape governance and communication to build up a resilient society?

These questions were discussed in the framework of the international and interdisciplinary workshop “Managing Forest Risks Towards Desaster Reduction: The Case of Wildfires, Storms, Floods and Avalanches and Their Interactions” in Solsona, Catalunya, organized by the project NetRiskWork (networking for the European Forest Risk Facility). The workshop took place from 3-6 October 2017.