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! 

Engagement means listening first: SUPERB’s Po Valley Demo

Effective stakeholder engagement is key to long-term forest restoration success. Being aware of that, SUPERB’s  Po Valley Demo team, after considering the internal skillset (mainly academic and technical), chose to seek support on this task from experts in this field. 

After a selection process in the private sector for a consulting association, the Po Valley Demo team joined forces with NGO Demetra Onlus, a social promotion and international solidarity organisation working on social engagement in different fields, including counseling on stakeholder inclusion in environmental projects, environmental education in schools, and children playground design for outdoor parks. 

As part of a recent stakeholder engagement workshop that took place in September 2023, at Parco Nord HQ in Milan, Demetra presented a 2-year long stakeholder engagement strategy as a three-fold approach with different focuses: 

  • First, raising school children’s perception and interaction with the area in concert with the growth of the plantation: environmental talks in local primary schools with visits to the plantation areas, with the idea that the plantation itself will grow together with that particular generation of citizens. First sessions with the students in Legnano (the first SUPERB planting site in the Po Valley area) were successfully carried out. And many teachers at the school asked to repeat the sessions in other classrooms! 
  • Second, a screening of NGOs, civil society actors, public institutions, dog lovers’ associations, bike riding groups, among other common actors that could actively use the area and include them in the strategy development and implementation by making their needs and preferences known to the Po Valley Demo team. 
  • Third, a scouting of the local businesses possibly interested in co-financing the plantation maintenance after the SUPERB project ends in 2025. At that point, synergies between private partners and public municipality could be a win-win situation for both, allowing for a reduction of the public maintenance costs for the municipality and a green marketing possibility for the private sector. 

Demetra, the SUPERB Po Valley team and the local stakeholders are now looking forward to seeing the trees, the environmental knowledge and the engagement grow. Some of this excitement is reflected in the outcomes of activities involving local stakeholders in previous meetings, including families, elderly groups, and sport-related associations, answering the question: How do we involve citizens in the new forest? 

How to build a forest restoration community 

On November 20-22, 2023, our hybrid SUPERB Restoration Project Festival brought together 25 forest restoration experts in Milan in addition to a vibrant online community. Here we recap the key moments: 

Day 1 started with a deep dive into innovative funding and long-term continuity for forest restoration projects: 

  • Dr. Thomas Campagnaro from the Università degli Studi di Padova shared insights on upscaling approaches in forest biodiversity, including the BOTTOMS-UP project 
  • Antti Leinonen from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland presented the Forest Biodiversity Programme METSO and its success in securing long-term funding. 
  • Dr. Giustino Mezzalira, forestry engineer and consultant, discussed innovative financing for large-scale forest restoration on the Marcesina plateau in Italy. 

Day 2 was all about collaboration and knowledge exchange: 

  • Participants took centre stage and shared best practices on boosting ecosystem resilience, reconciling conflicting goals and objectives, monitoring project successes and building partnership within their respective projects. 
  • The SUPERB Gateway – an upcoming public online database for tools on forest restoration practice, science, governance, and funding – was presented.  
  • Participants completed the SUPERB Practice Questionnaire which aims to bring valuable information from across European forestry projects to this community. Would you like to contribute? Please complete the survey here

On Day 3 we explored the impactful role of storytelling in fostering multistakeholder collaboration in restoration. In this workshop by the European Forest Institute, we drew examples from the SUPERB demonstrator area Vindeläven-Juhtatdahka Biosphere Reserve in Sweden. 

In Milan, the festival concluded with a guided visit led by SUPERB partner Fabio Campana to Parco Nord, the city’s largest urban forest and part of the SUPERB Po Valley demo area. 

The success of the festival was the achievement of our participants and owes much to our diverse speakers on days 2 and 3: 

Lastly, congratulations to Marijan Lozancic on winning the festival’s visual exhibition contest with a video on demining interventions in Bosnian forests! 

A heartfelt thanks to our project partners and speakers for their cooperation, and to all participants for joining us to share their invaluable perspectives and build future partnerships. 

The event was organised by SUPERB partner Prospex Institute. 

Guided visit to Paco Nord urban forest in Milan