A really nice forest chat

#ForestRestorationStory by Åsa Granberg, practical coordinator in SUPERB’s Swedish demo

Last Friday, I had one of the best forest moments in a long time. It all started in the morning when I scanned through the post of the day. I have recently helped our Swiss project colleagues Moses Kazungu and Marcel Hunziker to distribute letters of invitation to a digital questionnaire about people’s perceptions on forests and forest restoration among 1500 randomly sampled citizens in my county. Since not everybody lives at the address where they are registered, I have had a couple of letters returning each day the last week. When checking these letters on Friday morning I noticed that one of them had a note written on it: “Sorry, I can only participate with pen and paper. I have sold my forest to a bird hunter. You can erase this 85-year-old lady”. I imagined the old lady, smiled, and put the letter aside. Then I picked it up again and looked at the address… And realized it was in the village next to mine. I started thinking, what if this lady actually wanted to complete the questionnaire, but was unable to do so because it was digital? After a short search I found her phone number, called and she answered almost immediately. – “Yes, I would very much like to answer your questionnaire!”. We decided that I would take an earlier bus home from work that day to drop by at her house and help her fill in the questionnaire on my computer.

In the afternoon the rain was pouring down as I got on the earlier bus. Once on the bus, I called her back to check that she still wanted to participate. Absolutely! she answered, and 30 minutes later I knocked on her door.

And it turned out to be one of the nicest conversations about forest I have ever had! Margareta, 85 years old, shared with me the story of her life and how the forest had been part of it the whole time. She told me about the forest she inherited some 30 km away, her thoughts on how to manage the forest to keep the berries, the mushrooms, and the wildlife, but also the trade-offs when it came to economic outcome from the forest. She also explained that her sister, who had inherited the neighbouring forest but had other interests, had chosen to manage her forest in a different way. Margareta also introduced me to her “everyday forests”. How she and her husband had run, walked, and biked almost everywhere in the forests surrounding where she lives. That she knows almost all paths. Finally, Margareta told me about the joy she felt when meeting the children from the day-care next door, hand in hand, happily announcing to her that they were on their way to “their” forest – a small forest patch nearby Margareta’s house, not very special for a grown-up, but an adventure for small children!

After one and a half hour, several cups of coffee and a handful of biscuits, we had managed to fill in Margareta’s answers in the questionnaire. Best spent Friday afternoon in ages!

Turning Over a New Leaf: Replanting Quercus Robur with Lessons Learned

Within the SUPERB project, a noteworthy advancement was achieved last week in the Serbian part of the Cross-border demo area, marking a pivotal moment in the ongoing replanting efforts in Biosphere Reserve Gornje Podunavlje. This latest phase of our activities within the SUPERB project not only highlights the adaptability and resilience of the conservation efforts in Gornje Podunavlje but also emphasizes the importance of learning from past challenges. By acknowledging the impact of severe drought conditions on the initial attempt to establish Quercus robur stand, the current approach is adapted to ensure greater success. Public Enterprise Vojvodinašume is currently undertaking a remarkable endeavour, with over 50 workers diligently planting 94,000 Quercus robur seedlings at the restoration site. As part of their efforts for success, new fencing is being installed to protect against negative impacts from wildlife, while each seedling is being treated with hydrogel to prevent the loss of soil moisture, showcasing the ongoing commitment to successful restoration. Through ongoing practices, we continue to evolve, striving to achieve our overarching goal of enhancing biodiversity and ecosystem resilience in this ecologically significant region.

Trade-offs and synergies between European and national forest restoration policies and laws 

#RestorationStory by Simon Fleckenstein and Antonio Basilicata on a stimulating exchange at the science-policy-practice interface 

Climate resilience and biodiversity are mutually reinforcing preconditions for forests to deliver what we as societies need: e.g. wood and other forest products, and opportunities for recreation. But how can we reach this, considering incoherencies and unexplored synergies between European and national forest policies and laws, mirroring different societal interests, values, and knowledge? As such, they act as important drivers of forest management practices that directly shape the resilience of forests and the provision of forest ecosystem services. In light of an increasing need for restoring degraded forest ecosystems in the European Union, we need to bridge critical gaps between different stocks of knowledge, values and interests. For this, we require a better understanding of how this can be done and of what forest restoration actually means to different stakeholder groups. To tackle this question and further aspects, the EU Horizon 2020 SUPERB project organized an enlightening and interactive expert workshop in the heart of political Brussels on 15th February 2024.     

The event was jointly organized by project partners Prospex Institute and the University of Freiburg. It facilitated fruitful discussions on key policy, legal and technical challenges and solutions for European forest restoration within the European multi-level governance system. This included expert exchanges on i) the practical implications of EU and national forest restoration policies, ii) the reconciliation of emerging restoration policies such as the proposed Nature Restoration Law (NRL) with existing European and national forest policies and laws, and iii) opportunities to foster cross-sectoral and multi-level synergies and reduce potential trade-offs. With around 35 representatives from different Directorate-Generals (DGs) of the European Commission, Member State authorities, stakeholder groups, and scientists gathering in a beautiful venue, everything was set for a productive and enriching exchange. 

Two bird´s-eye- views from science and practice 

After a welcoming address and introduction to the SUPERB project by our coordinator Prof. Magda Bou Dagher Kharrat, the workshop started with an insightful presentation from SUPERB partner Prof. Bart Muys from KU Leuven. He provided different and partly competing definitions and understandings of forest “restoration” and emphasized the role of (forest) biodiversity as the foundation for ecosystem functions. Bart argued for a stronger emphasis on biodiversity as a key asset and highlighted the importance of integrating climate considerations into emerging forest-related legislation. Finally, he concluded that forest restoration is a policy and management choice, thus building a bridge to the next keynote speeches.  

Following this, Dr. Peter Löffler (DG CLIMA) provided insights into daily political affairs. He underscored the high-risk exposure of forests to climate change and called for increased investment in risk management strategies, including through forest restoration. In this context, he pointed to various existing and emerging EU policies that necessitate streamlining with national and regional/local policies. The aim is to provide added value to local restoration practitioners by incorporating their practices and experiences into policymaking. Peter emphasized that this approach is crucial for promoting climate-adapted restoration of forests in the European Union. 

Insights from SUPERB on policy and legal aspects of forest restoration in Europe  

Our team from the University of Freiburg provided important insights from our ongoing work in SUPERB. First, Dr. Metodi Sotirov set the scene in his keynote presentation by offering definitions of vertical and horizontal policy coherence from the political science perspective. He then presented an overview of SUPERB results about different, partly conflicting EU and national sectoral and vertical policy priorities ranging from (i.) forest biodiversity conservation and restoration to (ii.) carbon forest management/forest sinks to (iii.) multi-purpose forestry to (iv.) timber yield forestry and to (v.) bioenergy and carbon forestry. Metodi concluded by presenting some illustrative examples for cross-sectoral and vertical policy trade-offs and synergies between new and existing EU forest-related policies and laws. 

Next, we (Simon Fleckenstein and Antonio Basilicata) presented more detailed insights into SUPERB results on EU and national policies and laws governing forest restoration. Based on our findings from an expert interview and analyses of policy documents, we provided an overview of soft and hard law instruments from forest, biodiversity, climate, and agricultural policy areas that directly or indirectly govern forest restoration indicators and practices (e.g., protected forest areas, close-to-nature forests, riparian forest zones, invasive species, and wildlife management). We concluded our presentation with an overview of institutional, administrative, and organizational supporting and hindering drivers of forest restoration.   

To bridge the gap between policy and practice, our SUPERB partner Sara Filipek from Wageningen University & Research introduced the diversity of the twelve demo regions covered by SUPERB and highlighted the multiplicity of restoration challenges prevalent in different regions. She further drew attention to the issues coming along with poorly coordinated restoration policies for local municipalities and restoration practitioners and outlined opportunities to mitigate them in the future.     

Fostering discussions across political levels and Member States 

The diverse program of the event was further complemented by a high-level expert panel skillfully moderated by SUPERB partner Jo O´Hara (former UK Forestry Commissioner) who is responsible for coordinating the work package on “Upscaling”. The panel brought together representatives from the Pan-European ministerial forest policy process, the EU Commission, national forest authorities, and European state forest managers. Facilitating fruitful discussions, the addressed questions ranged from high-level forest restoration policies and their priorities over the potential of transnational cooperation to concrete implementation challenges faced by forest owners and industry on the ground.  

For instance, while it was emphasized that the implementation of forest restoration, as suggested under the proposed Nature Restoration Law, will primarily lie in hands of national administrations, there were calls for a stronger balance between restoration priorities and a better communication between policymakers, forest owners and practitioners. National insights on forest restoration implementation were, inter alia, provided from Spain and Italy, where highly decentralized political systems and exacerbating impacts of climate change call for a certain degree of flexibility in the implementation of forest restoration. Lastly, panelists were asked to write down one key word/statement they deem most relevant to foster forest restoration in the European Union. They included building trust, sharing knowledge and experiences. In addition, they suggested improving communication and interaction across political levels and sectors.  

Harnessing national expertise and experience 

But what would an expert workshop be without providing space to share the valuable experiences, knowledge and opinions of policy and practice experts working in the field? The core part of the event consisted of two interactive breakout sessions. In five small and diverse sub-groups, participants were encouraged to 1) discuss opportunities to streamline potentially diverging interests on forest restoration across policy sectors (such as in the context of promoting uneven-aged and mixed species stands) and foster collaboration towards a common forest restoration goal, as well as 2) jointly identify the potentially optimal multilevel governance model and necessary policy toolbox to promote forest restoration in the European Union. The results illustrated the richness of ideas and common ground in navigating the multifaceted system of European forest restoration politics among the workshop participants. 

Conclusions and way forward  

The one-day Expert Discussion on Forest Restoration Policy and Practice turned out to be a big success, not least due to the active engagement of the diverse range of stakeholders who joined the event. This demonstrated that, during the policy-making process and in related research activities, close cooperation with national experts and restoration practitioners is crucial to ensuring practicability and added value.  

Moreover, while there may be some disagreement on how to achieve forest restoration in the European Union, the shared goal of securing climate-adapted and biodiverse forests transcends policy sectors and political levels. It remains essential that relevant stakeholders talk with each other and exchange knowledge as well as context-specific experiences/best practices on forest restoration in a mutually beneficial way. The good news is that with the vast practical and scientific experience and knowledge in this field, also very much gathered in SUPERB, we have the necessary tools at hand to foster and scale up forest restoration in Europe. 

Upcoming webinar – Tree planting and water cycling: always a win-win situation?

In the next SUPERB/IUFRO Forest Restoration Talk, we’ll take a trip to the Loess Plateau in China to investigate the nexus between forest restoration and water.

As climate change impacts creep in, considering the options and limitations of forest restoration from the perspective of water cycling has become critical, especially in dry regions of the world. We need to transform traditional approaches to restoration by taking into account water resource limitations, the impacts of forestry practices on water resources, and the optimisation of multiple forest functions and services.

Using afforestation in the Loess Plateau as a regional example, we’ll discuss the topic with two speakers from IUFRO’s Transforming Forest Landscapes Task Force:

• Yanhui Wang, Ecology and Nature Conservation Institute, Chinese Academy of Forestry

• Zhang Mingfang, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China

The webinar “Tree planting and water cycling: always a win-win situation?” takes place on the 10th of April, at 16:00 CET.

Restoring forests on poor sandy soils

Restoration Story by Silke Jacobs & Lisa Raats

When visiting the Dutch SUPERB demo area at the end of January, one could see a grayish dust cloud coming from a helicopter that was flying over the forests. The helicopter was covering the forest soil with rock dust: a much-needed measure in forests growing on dry sandy soils.

The forests in the Dutch demo area depend on very degraded sandy soils which are poor in nutrients, dry and have a low pH, meaning stronger acidity. This is not what the trees are hoping for in terms of environmental conditions. While walking around, one can notice that the trees, mostly Scots pine, are quite small both in height and diameter. They are longing for a healthy forest soil.

Within SUPERB, Bosgroep Zuid Nederland will implement measures to make the forests more vital and healthier. The aim is to treat approximately 60 hectares of forests owned by 16 private forest owners. It was a huge task to track these people and involve all of them in the project.

But after this hard work and conducting research, one of the restoration measures has finally started. The helicopter is thus spreading the rock dust in the area. Rock dust contains nutrients that the forest soil could use and gradually releases calcium, magnesium and potassium.

We had a great viewpoint to see the actual restoration activities being carried out by the helicopter. It was impressive to watch! The route flown by the helicopter can be visualized after the flight and we have been told that it is very accurate thanks to a skilled pilot.

The helicopter stayed in the air the whole time we watched it, except during a short break to refuel. It has also lowered so that a shovel could add the rock dust again to its basket for another flight spreading dust over the forest.

In the picture above you can see the big pile of rock dust that still needed to be spread. After flying a couple of hours, everything was gone and it’s time for the rock dust to do its work within the soil.

Alongside the use of rock dust, another implemented measure includes planting rich litter tree species in this area. The intention is for species such as hazel, lime and maple to gradually become more prominent contributors to the leaf composition in the litter layer. As these leaves decompose, they release nutrients into the soil, replenishing the system with essential elements over time. Additionally, this results in a more diverse forest in terms of species composition.

The experiences gained from both restoration actions and involving forest owners and other stakeholders can be valuable for future forest restoration projects, especially considering the prevalence of other degraded sandy forest soils in the Netherlands.

First-year anniversary at SUPERB’s Po Valley Demo  

In the municipality of Legnano, the first restoration plot of SUPERB’s Po Valley Demo is celebrating its first-year anniversary. The team has divided the land here into 12 different stands to experiment with different densities of tree and plant cover (1500, 2000, and 2500 p/ha).  

Po Valley is one of Italy’s most important economic regions, in which agricultural and urban developments have gradually led to forest reduction and fragmentation. As biodiversity is increasingly under pressure, SUPERB aims to restore approximately 10 hectares of land in the administrative area of Lombardia. The aim here is to introduce biodiverse-rich, small patches of forest, as well as enhance ecological connectivity by planting trees, bushes, and hedges.  

Aside from this very first plot of land, the team has started to expand their restoration efforts across new municipalities: 

“It was close to impossible to find a continuous 7 ha patch so close to Milan, therefore, this year we will plant trees in 4 separated plots in 3 different municipalities”, says Michel Saini, project coordinator of the Po Valley Demo.

The restoration efforts were thus divided over the municipalities of Inveruno, Villa Cortese and Vittuone, with a total cover of 9 hectares of land. With plant species from Northern Italy, Central Italy and Southern Italy, the team is specifically dedicated to the study of genetic provenance, planting 3 different strands in each of the 4 areas. This means that they will actively explore how the different plant species, native to the above-mentioned regions, adapt to their new environmental conditions. 

In collaboration with the University of Trento, the team will also test the benefits of hydrogel for the survival of small saplings.  

“We will implement a layer of hydro-retentive gel at the bottom of the planting hole, with two main variables” explains Michel Saini, “one is control, irrigated by rain only, and the other is regularly irrigated saplings”.  

At the same time, the project focuses on several other studies, including: 

  • A focus on monitoring of zoonotic disease by monitoring and estimating the mosquitos and ticks’ population with traps. It’s a study in collaboration with Fondazione Edmund Mach

  • Studies on the effects of reforestation of former farmland on soil ecosystem services within Parco Nord Milano. The evaluation of reforestation effects is thus carried out through 3 indicators related to soil characteristics: Carbon stock, water regulation and soil biodiversity.

  • The monitoring of pollinators in the meadows close to the chrono sequences sites with the aim of studying the change in urban biodiversity after afforestation. This is a collaboration with the University of Milan – Bicocca 

  • The analysis of the contribution of vegetation in mitigating the urban “Heat Island Effect” with physical sensors. 

Stay tuned for more information! 

Resist, survive, respond, restore

Exploring resilient forest responses across countries 

#RestorationStory from Jo O’Hara

The SUPERB project already touches many places and people through its demos and partners. Yet we must stretch its synergies even further if we are to achieve the scale of our European-wide forest restoration targets. Therefore, we planted new collaborative seeds in November 2023, when senior staff from the Irish state forest service, namely Coillte, were hosted by German SUPERB partners Wald und Holz NRW in North Rhine Westphalia to discuss forest resilience and prestoration approaches. While there is no formal Irish involvement with SUPERB, when introduced to the project, Coillte managers were extremely keen to learn from our work and establish new professional networks. 

Coillte forests are mostly plantation-based (Ireland had less than 1% forest cover at the start of the 20th century) and strongly dominated by non-native spruce (Picea sitchensis). The forests are mainly managed on a commercial clear-fell / replant system, and many are at the end of their first rotation. This gives the organisation great opportunities to re-structure and ‘prestore’ their land to become more resilient and ecologically positive, while maintaining their commercial performance. Recognising this, Coillte has just launched a new strategic plan (2023 – 2050) for managing the country’s forests. This plan includes specific ambitions to:  

  • Enhance and restore biodiversity by increasing the area of [the] estate managed primarily for biodiversity and environmental enhancement from 20% to 30% by 2025  
  • Transform areas of forests so that 50% of [the] estate is managed primarily for biodiversity and environmental enhancement in the long- term  

Discussions on and in the forest

Catharina Schmidt from the SUPERB NRW demo, worked with me to organise a packed and insightful programme surrounding the spruce-forest calamity area and the development of alternative silvicultural approaches. Over the course of two days the group visited public, communal and private forests, all of which had been hit by drought, windstorms, and beetles. We discussed all stages of the ‘resist, survive, respond, restore’ cycle – including a deep-dive evening discussion about the conditions leading to the explosion in bark beetle damage, and the operational challenges of the response (including contractors, sawmill, markets, and nursery stock).  

The SUPERB demo site was both a daunting and profound example of the actual reality and risks forests face: a huge area of ‘lost’ forest where tough decisions need to be made about how and what to regenerate. We could see and find insights into the resilience of alternative approaches nearby in the ‘Rothaargebirge Naturpark’ and on the ‘von Hatzfeldt’ estate. Wald und Holz NRW state forests, blown over 15 years ago in the ‘Rothaargebirge Naturpark’, managed to regenerate in a way that multiple species survived the beetle explosion quite well. Having been converted from single storey monocultures over the last 30 years, the ‘von Hatzfeldt’ private estate (despite losing much spruce) also proved more ecologically and financially resilient in the face of the calamity. 

Sharing experiences to anticipate risks and explore lessons-learned

It is essential to adopt a global perspective on forests to address the climate and biodiversity crisis effectively”, commented SUPERB demo coordinator from Wald und Holz NRW, Catharina Schmidt. “Forests offer a multitude of ecosystem services, serving as carbon sinks producing the sustainable raw material wood and providing habitats for numerous species. It is therefore important to preserve our forests globally. I am glad to share our experience, so others can learn from us to take proactive steps sooner to mitigate risks. Timely transformation of forests is important under global change”. 

Ireland has not yet been hit by significant forest damage due to climate or other environmental changes. This was hence a powerful opportunity for Coillte foresters to look into a potential future for their own forests and consider risks and mitigations by learning from what they saw. SUPERB brought to life the reality of the risks and set-up conversations between a fantastic range of professionals, all dealing with the challenge of multi-functional forest management in a changing and uncertain future environment.  

10 key learning points for Coillte

Coillte took away 10 key learning points from the visit that they aim to consider in the implementation of their strategic plan. As mentions Director Ciaran Fallon, “The visit was highly informative in terms of understanding lessons learned from the catastrophic Ips beetle outbreak of 2018 and how German foresters are creating more resilient forests in response to climate change impacts. Developing a strategy for resilience and adaptation to climate change, including the increasing risk of a major pest outbreak, for our estate is critical. Building on the learnings from continental Europe, we are working with partners to model, with the most accurate data, future climate scenarios and associated impacts. Identifying risks and testing scenarios will enable us to develop the best resilience and sustainability for our forest estate.” 

Finally, I would like to highlight the importance of engaging in collaborations such as this: Within SUPERB, much of the upscaling attention is focused on the Nature Restoration Gateway, an online portal offering a broad range of tools and best practice for ecosystem restoration. But it might be even more vital that we recognise the importance of networks and connections to bring our learnings to the field. Computer-based information will only get us so far – people will make it happen. 

Jo O’Hara is leading SUPERB’s WP8 on Further Upscaling.

Webinar: “Ecosystem Restoration on a Landscape level – how can it work in practice?” 

Landscape approaches to ecosystem restoration are gaining traction worldwide, helping to rebuild degraded ecosystems for the benefit of people and nature while leveraging local and scientific expertise and enhancing stakeholder cooperation. To deliver large-scale landscape restoration across Europe, the European Commission is funding four flagship projects as part of the EU Green Deal and as a direct input to the EU Biodiversity Strategy and the new Nature Restoration Law.  

The EU Green Deal ecosystem restoration cluster – composed of the SUPERB, MERLIN, WaterLANDS and REST-COAST projects – totals 85 million euros of investment, spread out across forest, freshwater, wetlands and coastal ecosystems. Individually, the four projects are conducting on-the-ground restoration efforts in each of their ecosystems and paving the way for further upscaling and replication activities in the years to come. Together, they are working on joint challenges, creating common tools and resources, such as the upcoming Nature Restoration Gateway, and debating how restoration across different ecosystems can be coordinated at the landscape scale. 

The next step in this collaboration is the webinar “Ecosystem Restoration on a Landscape level – how can it work in practice?”, to be held on 13 March, 16:00 CET, as part of the SUPERB Monthly Forest Restoration Talks. Representatives of the four projects will gather to discuss their experiences with restoration on a practical level, common challenges and ideas on how a more integrated approach to landscape restoration might look like.  

 
Curious to hear more about the cluster? Register here to join the webinar!  

Webinar speakers: 

  • Magda Bou Dagher Kharrat, Principal Scientist, European Forest Institute, SUPERB project coordinator 
  • Sebastian Birk, Senior Scientist and Lecturer, University of Duisburg-Essen, MERLIN project coordinator 
  • Shane Mc Guinness, Assistant Professor, University College Dublin, WATERLANDS project coordinator 
  • Ana Iglesias, Professor, Technical University of Madrid – UPM, REST-COAST project 

Brown Bear Protection, Rural Development and Community Empowerment 

Success in El Bierzo: In an Ecological Restoration Stakeholder Workshop, stakeholders reached consensus on brown bear protection, rural development and community empowerment. The Carracedelo municipality hosted this meeting to show the options of ‘exporting’ the work carried to improve the habitat of the brown bear in El Bierzo to similar territories

On almost 140 hectares, reaching over six municipalities, in the region of El Bierzo (León, Spain), a series of actions will be carried to restore and improve the living conditions of the residents of the area. This refers both to the flora of the region and, in this particular case, also its fauna, paying special attention to one of the most emblematic species of the area, the brown bear. The next stage is to evaluate the upscaling options of the plan, which was studied in a participatory process with the main stakeholders in the region. 

Cesefor and the Junta de Castilla y León, the two entities that manage SUPERB’s demo area in Castilla y León in SUPERB, introduced the restoration plan and its upscaling options, as well as the SUPERB project, on February 6 in Carracedelo within the framework of a stakeholder workshop. 

About thirty people participated in this meeting, which was held at the facilities of Quality Products from El Bierzo. The purpose of the organisers was to ensure that all the socio-economic agents of the territory were represented, from civil society to professionals from the business world, forest management, education or tourism, among other fields. 

Rocío Gallego, SUPERB coordinator at Cesefor, presented some of the strengths of this project. ”Our demonstration areas encompass entire socio-ecological systems, protecting and restoring them, while taking into account people’s needs for ecosystem services and benefits.” She also emphasized that “our goal is to find best practices and gather practical and scientific knowledge on the success of forest restoration and aggregate it for implementation.” 

Stand for potential food provision of brown bear (photo: Cesefor)

Cesefor’s forestry officer Darío Arias, presented the restoration project in the pilot area, which was developed by Cesefor, the Territorial Environmental Service of León and the General Directorate of Natural Heritage and Forest Policy of the Junta de Castilla y León. This project, among other actions, has included the implementation of measures to improve the habitat of the brown bear by planting species suitable for feeding the bear, increasing the production of acorns and the creation of mixed forests. ”We will also carry out forestry activities to reduce forest fuel and decrease the risk of fires. Furthermore, we will promote chestnut plantations with the aim of revitalizing rural areas and their development and involving the local population in the management of these forests,” said Arias in his speech. 

Stand for future chestnut plantation (photo: Cesefor)

Javier de Dios, forest ecology officer at Cesefor and co-leader of the SUPERB work in Spain, introduced the proposal for the upscaling plan for all these actions (i.e. the ‘export’ of this model to other areas of similar properties). He did that based on a participatory process in which all the attendees were involved.  But before pointing out the most feasible scenario for the upscaling, covering the real and potential distribution area of the bear in Zamora, León, Palencia, Burgos and Soria, Javier emphasized the main political, economic, social, legal and technical barriers that have to be faced. 

Widespread consensus on a broad range of topics of interest 

De Dios had a major role in participatory process in which all the attendees were involved. For the organisers of the workshop, this participatory process “has been very useful not only to know first-hand the opinion of those who live in and of these territories, but also to include their contributions in the upscaling plan (expansion of the Cantabrian brown bear habitat restoration project)”. 

Among the main conclusions of the meeting, both the imminent tender of the restoration project and the great participation of all the attendees have to be mentioned. The stakeholders highlighted the need to promote association, cooperation, land concentration and tax incentives for forest owners. They also required actions to disseminate forestry work and the problems associated with the presence of the bear for the rural and urban population. Finally, they emphasized the need for establishing suitable financial systems that cover long-term monitoring and maintenance after restoration actions. 

The necessity to involve the private sector in restoration and maintenance actions, potential payments for ecosystem services, streamlining procedures bear damage,  the need for a regulation in the Forestry Law and to link management plans to specific regulations (and not to guidelines) were other topics on which the attendees agreed. 

Before concluding, all attendees were again thanked for their participation, and they were invited to attend the third workshop, which will be held in May 2025 and will address the results of implementation of restoration activities in the SUPERB demonstration area in El Bierzo. 

Breaking out of business as usual in Serbian forestry

On 23 November 2023, the second stakeholder workshop focusing on the SUPERB demo Coppice Forests in Serbia took place at the Monastery Vujan, in Prislonica. Engaging conversations around the ongoing restoration activities in the demo area were held with five participants, mostly coming from private forestry companies. This was also an excellent opportunity for the demo team to collect in-depth feedback from the participants.

The workshop started with a presentation on the work that has been done since the beginning of the project, followed by an overview of the ongoing and planned restoration activities. Particularly, all participants were very pleased to see the number of different noble tree species’ seedlings that were used in the restoration activities, such as Prunus avium L., Pyrus pyraster L., Acer platanoides L., Acer pseudoplatanus L., Corylus colurna L. They emphasised that SUPERB’s approach greatly differs from business-as-usual in Serbian forestry and appreciated how biodiversity preservation is well considered in the restoration activities.

After a short coffee break, the demo team opened the next session by presenting activities conducted in the past two years and upcoming plans. Two highlights of these past activities are the restoration of an area of 50ha and the planting of 16.920 seedlings during 2022-23! As for this year, the plan is to start the restoration on an area of 80ha using seedlings and natural regeneration where possible. While this session was mainly prepared for forest landowners and managers, participants expressed their interest in how the SUPERB project’s practical approach is backed by science. One of the participants was very interested in the remote sensing activities such as the use of LiDAR remote sensing (implemented by SUPERB colleagues from Bangor University and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) and was curious about who would come to perform this work and when. The session ended with playing the acoustic recording of the Žiča site, through which participants were able to enjoy different birds’ chirping.

Birds’ chirping recording of the Žiča site

After a wrap up session, the demo team led the participants through a walk in the forest. They visited areas where restoration had already taken place and saw first-hand what had been presented to them during the workshop. Some of the participants had already attended the first stakeholder workshop (also organised by the demo team) and were impressed to see how many of the previously planned activities are now taking shape!

Next steps: bringing more people on board!

Even though the participants expressed their full support to the restoration plans for the demo, there were no private and institutional landowners joining the workshop, and it is very important to have them onboard. Additionally, for the stakeholder engagement strategy, the demo team plans to actively participate in discussions about forest restoration, and to establish links with local communities, including primary schools and recreational forest users. It is of crucial importance to acknowledge the necessity of starting an extended dialogue with a wide range of local stakeholders to increase awareness about the importance of forest restoration and by this, secure their participation and support in the activities of the SUPERB project.