In the end of September 2023 the Swedish SUPERB demo colleagues Åsa Granberg and Anders Esselin contributed an excursion with the advisory board of the regional forest program. The advisory board consists of representatives of a wide range of forest stakeholders, from NGOs in nature conservation and outdoor life, private forest owners, politicians and researchers to heads of forest management in the large forest companies in the region. It was an inspiring day with a lot of interesting discussions and meetings, starting with a visit to a field trial of chess board cutting, a version of continuous cover forestry. At site, Charlotta Erefur and Ida Rönnqvist, researchers at SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) told the colleagues from the Swedish demo about the trial and encouraged to discussions. With such diverse group of stakeholders the discussions immediately started, covering things like potential benefits of the method, for example for biodiversity and recreational values, but also potential drawbacks, for example lower profitability and issues with regeneration.
The excursion ended with a visit in in the SUPERB restoration site Ume Älvdal, where municipality ecologist Marlene Olsson and SUPERB-member Åsa Granberg told the advisory board about the planned restoration activities in the area and about the SUPERB project. And despite pouring rain, the audience were really interested and gave their different views on the planned restoration actions. All in all – a really nice day!
In our upcoming Forest Restoration Talk with IUFRO on 20 September 2023 4pm, we will discuss public perceptions of Forest Landscape Restoration in different regions of the world. Our first speaker, researcher Moses Kanzungu (WSL), will present results from a study on public perceptions of forests they conducted as part of the SUPERB project. Moses comments: “While the perceptions remained consistent across the study regions, the interviews unveiled two distinct classifications of forests. On one hand, forests were recognised as intricate and multifaceted entities, embodying a sense of ‘everything.’ On the other hand, an equally compelling perspective emerged where forests were cherished as unique and isolated havens. This duality in perception provides a fascinating glimpse into how individuals perceive and connect with these vital ecosystems.”
Our second speaker is Vianny Ahimbisibwe (Thünen Institute), a specialist in land use potentials and ecosystem restoration in Africa. In a recent paper, he analysed the gap between restoration intentions and actual behaviours at the farm level. He emphasises that landscape implementers and facilitators need to work hand in hand for the effective implementation of FLR activities. Vianny will share experiences and lessons-learned from the FLESRA project, focusing on the performance of different silvicultural techniques, their cost-benefit structures and mismatch in actor values and beliefs in the FLR realm.
Finally, Åsa Granberg from the Västerbotten County Administration (Länsstyrelsen Västerbotten) in Sweden will share insights from SUPERB’s Swedish demo, which she is leading as a project manager. In this demo, the local team fosters natural forest configuration and forest connectivity on a landscape scale, improving conditions for biodiversity and indigenous Sami community reindeer husbandry. Their landscape approach also addresses governance challenges linked to the multiple ownership of land, including public, private, forest company and non-industrial private ownership in large- to small-scale gradients.
A new commentary published in “Science” warns of the alarming loss of old-growth forests in Europe, which continue to disappear despite protection commitments made in the EU Biodiversity Strategy. The commentary is authored by an international team of scientists, including three researchers active in SUPERB: Martin Mikoláš, Miroslav Svoboda (Czech University of Life Sciences Prague) and Bart Muys (KU Leuven).
According to the researchers, a key barrier to better protection is the incomplete identification of many old-growth forests. They argue that comprehensive mapping of old-growth forests – and an immediate moratorium on logging where these are most likely to occur – are urgently required.
Old-growth forests are under high and rising pressure in many parts of the world, including Europe. In most EU countries, very few old-growth forests remain and they are typically small and isolated. While the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 mandates their legal protection, old-growth forests loss continues unabated.
“These forests are critical for biodiversity conservation; many endangered species depend on them, including wolves, lynx and bears, and a myriad of beetles and fungi”, explains Martin Mikoláš from the Czech University of Life Sciences, Prague, the lead author of the article. “They also store vast amounts of carbon, so they offer a natural solution against climate change. Despite their importance, we are currently failing to protect this natural heritage. Urgent action is required to better protect old-growth forests before it is too late.”
Regarding the implications of old-growth forest protection measures for managed forests, Prof. Bart Muys from KU Leuven added: “The objective of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 to strictly conserve all old-growth and primary forests in EU should not lead to conflicts with forests that are managed in the long term through well-defined, biodiversity-oriented, close to nature forest management with only minor interventions, such as selection forests (Plenterwälder, forêts jardinées) in the Pre-Alps, or oak forests with long rotation cycles in European lowlands, as old-growth forests are characterized by not being actively managed for a long period of time. However, non-intervention management of these forest stands, which preserves at least a portion of these forests, should be encouraged to realize their full ecological potential in exchange for compensation for providing ecosystem functions to society in lieu of timber harvesting.”
A new open-access, multidisciplinary book launched by Springer gathers contributions from 148 authors on current issues, paradigms and previously neglected challenges related to boreal forest management in the face of climate change. Focusing on the boreal biome as a whole, instead of specific northern countries, it incorporates a rich knowledge of accumulated past work and novel ideas driving boreal science.
The book is part of the Springer “Advances in Global Change Research” series and was edited by Miguel Montoro Girona, Hubert Morin, Sylvie Gauthier and Yves Bergeron. It can be downloaded for free at the Springer website.
#RestorationStory by Silke Jakobs and Ajdin Starcevic
It was an early arrival at the airport for departure on Saturday morning, packed with several layers of clothing and warm shoes. This time the trip was up North, with final destination Umeå to visit SUPERB’s Swedish demo area. We were first flying to Stockholm and from there taking the train onwards to Umeå. While looking out of the window from the airplane close to Stockholm, we noticed that everything was still very green, no snow in sight. Or at least not yet.
At the train station we met with Magda, deputy project coordinator of SUPERB, who was also joining us. As we didn’t see any snow yet, we made a bet after how much time on the train we would see full snow cover. Of course, a full snow cover needed to be defined; “Enough snow to not wreck your skis.” Apparently, this was still open for own interpretations. In the end we were all too optimistic. It took longer than expected to reach our expected “winter wonderland”. But we had some beautiful views during the train ride, and the sunset was spectacular.
During dinner that night in Umeå we had our second Swedish experience, eating reindeer. We would learn more about the role of reindeer for Swedish forests and forest-depending communities later. But now, after such a long travel day and a tasty dinner, it was time for a good night of sleep, so we would be well rested for the next day, exploring the demo area.
It seems that every time we visit a SUPERB demo, the sun is out. This time was no exception. We were picked up by Åsa Granberg and Johan Svensson (the Swedish demo leads) and Ruben Valbuena, our colleague from SLU. Åsa and Johan were also our personal guides for the day and took us to our first stop where forest restoration activities have been performed in 2019.
The restoration area was located just outside of Umeå, a popular bird-watching destination for locals. The goal of the Ume river delta restoration activities was to improve the habitat quality for the white backed woodpecker. This was primarily accomplished by removing Norway spruce and Scots pine from the site to promote the establishment and growth of broadleaved trees, primarily birch.
As we have heard from our colleagues, the white backed woodpecker tends to avoid forests with as little as 5% Norway spruce in the species composition. It appears that some forest managers in Central Europe could learn a thing or two from a bird. But anyway, some spruce trees were mechanically felled and left in the forest to increase the amount of deadwood and favor some wood decaying fungi species, while others were girdled to become snags and provide future habitat for other wildlife. Our host, Åsa, even shared a rumor of a great grey owl making the restored forest its home.
We concluded that the restoration efforts here were a success which left us optimistic and hopeful for the restoration activities to be done on the SUPERB demo site.
The second stop was at a possible SUPERB restoration site where the municipality has already been trying for four years to restore the forest. In 2023 it might finally happen. Marlene Olsson, one of the ecologists at Umeå municipality told us about the restoration activities which aim to improve the habitat for the white backed woodpecker. This white backed woodpecker is a national focus point in Sweden. But why is that? Can you imagine that around 200 different species benefit from creating good habitats for the woodpecker. Another national focus point in Sweden is to have more broadleaf trees and a better connection between those broadleaved areas. In the case of our SUPERB demo this implies that the conifer species alongside the riverbed will be removed. Besides a positive impact on the biodiversity our demo partners expect that this will also improve soil stability and prevent soil erosion as root systems of the broadleaves reach much deeper into the ground.
Before continuing our trip to the next location, we needed to refuel our bodies. Åsa and Johan took us to this cozy place called the Brännlands Wärdshus. The food was delicious, it left us all speechless for a while with only the sound of a crackling fire in the corner. We could have stayed a bit longer, but there was more to be seen and daylight is scarce in Northern Europe’s winters.
The Skatan ecopark, another of the SUPERB project’s restoration sites in Sweden was the final stop on our Sunday trip. We even had a chance to look at our previous night’s dinner in the eyes on the way there.
Reindeer herding has a long tradition in Sweden within the Sámi culture, and it represents their main livelihood. The activity is legally reserved only for the Sámi who own about 250,000 reindeer in Sweden. Climate change and intensive forest management have posed an increasing threat in recent years. Because of the nowadays shifting winter temperatures, the snow melts and freezes repeatedly even in the middle of the winter and forms an ice crust above the soil, making it difficult for reindeer to reach the lichens on the forest floor, which are a main source of food during the winter months. Moreover, the cover of ground lichens has decreased a lot (70% over a time period of 50 years) due to soil scarification and too dense forests Furthermore, because of the dense forest hanging lichens, an as important winter grazing resource, are not easily accessible. The Sámi work with forest managers to address this issue by thinning certain areas and opening up the forest canopy. This promotes lichen growth and increases the amount of fodder available to reindeer.
Finally, we were unable to visit any of the exact locations where the SUPERB restoration activities will be carried out in Skatan ecopark because the forest roads leading there had not been cleaned. Instead, we stood on the frozen lake, with one of the sites on the other side, which allowed us to see the big picture both literally and figuratively.
One of the restoration activities, according to our hosts, will be to simulate fire disturbance, a natural occurrence that has been suppressed in recent decades. This should improve the forest’s naturalness while also supporting ecosystem services other than commercial timber and biomass production, such as recreational values and biodiversity.
Driving back to Umeå, we could look back at another great SUPERB demo visit thanks to Åsa, Johan and Marlene. And we hope next time we visit we’ll meet one of those famous woodpeckers.
All images in this Restoration Story were provided by the authors Silke Jacobs and Ajdin Starcevic. Silke and Ajdin are PhD students with Wageningen Research.
New FORWARDS project will work with SUPERB to deliver science-based knowledge to guide management using the principles of climate-smart forestry, ecosystem restoration, and biodiversity conservation.
With a total budget of €14m funded by the European Commission’s HorizonEurope (plus additional funding by Switzerland and the UK) and more than 19 partners involved, the FORWARDS project (ForestWard Observatory to Secure Resilience of European Forests) will provide timely and detailed information on European forests’ vulnerability to climate change. With its activities, FORWARDS aims at supporting European forests and society to transform, adapt, and mitigate climate-induced changes.
Promoting peaceful coexistence between bears and humans, reconciling indigenous and industrial forest uses, and creating climate-change adapted forests in a former war zone: these are some of the challenges faced by our SUPERB demo areas in Spain, Sweden and Croatia.
At the SUPERB Governance Innovation Lab, the managers of the SUPERB demos in these three locations introduced their approaches to forest restoration and worked on solutions to their governance challenges together with a panel of experts.
Do you want to find out more about their work and meet the faces behind our restoration case studies? Then watch the video interviews below, recorded at the Lab: