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!

Restoring after forest dieback: First Public Engagement Workshop in our German demo area

The pressure to act and restore the forest ecosystem is immense in our German demo area in North-Rhine Westphalia: Having suffered massive pest outbreaks 6 years ago, the region still struggles with widespread forest dieback. As many forest owners have been challenged in the past years, restoration efforts in the area remain at early stages.

After spending the morning with diverse stakeholders from forestry, tree nurseries, nature conservation, hunting and more, discussing restoration goals and different expectations to forests, we continued with a 2.5-hour public engagement workshop walking through one of our SUPERB demonstration sites close to Arnsberg.

Photo credits: Rahel Könen

To set the stage for the public engagement workshop in the forest, Gesche Schifferdecker shared some insights from an analysis of Facebook posts around the NRW forest area implemented by Rina Tsubaki. These ranged from red deer loving nature photographers to hunting associations emphasizing the role of game management for forest natural regeneration and afforestation to representatives of the City of Arnsberg introducing the forest management plans for a climate resilient mixed forest. The participants were very interested in the online debates and surprised about some of the opinionated comments below the posts. This led to a reflection upon the role of social media in public engagement, and how for example forestry practitioners could proactively contribute to a more balanced debate.

Photo credits: Rahel Könen

The discussions continued in our SUPERB demo area, with a guided tour by SUPERB demo manager Catharina Schmidt. As our SUPERB interventions focus on both environmental and social factors of forest restoration, we discussed in the field diverse topics from climate resilience, selection of tree species, impressions of trellis and tubes covering the newly planted trees, walkability, the role of deer pressure for forest restoration, to the importance of deadwood for biodiversity. Amongst other questions, we asked: “How does this site look to you?, “how do you perceive the role of hunting in the forest?”, and “how does the sight of lying and standing deadwood make you feel?” 

With over 15 participants, these questions led us to insightful and open-hearted discussions about the struggles and needs of this forest area, its ecosystem and its people. 

Sustainable finance, forests and biodiversity – Upcoming ThinkForest webinar

We are living in an era where biodiversity is under significant threat, both in Europe and globally. Urgent actions are required to stop further loss and foster restoration, especially within our forest ecosystems. This is not only an environmental responsibility, but is increasingly seen as an essential part of our future economic stability and growth. Public funding has always been playing a crucial role, but the importance of privately financed activities is also growing rapidly.

The European Union addresses the above-mentioned challenges in its Green Deal which aims to reverse biodiversity loss coupled with bioeconomy development, and by having economic growth decoupled from resource use. Accordingly, sustainable finance should aim to channel more investments towards this transition. The EU Taxonomy for sustainable activities is set to redefine investment landscapes, creating a uniform classification system for environmentally sustainable economic activities. Yet, specific criteria for forest-related biodiversity are still under development.

We invite you to join the upcoming ThinkForest webinar “Sustainable Finance, Forests and Biodiversity”, where we will dig into these crucial issues. We will discuss:

  • How can we define criteria and indicators for biodiversity maintenance as well as improvement for forest ecosystems?
  • How can we make sure and monitor that these biodiversity-related criteria and indicators are met (e.g. in forest restoration)?
  • How can private finance support biodiversity protection and enhancement and make it their business case?

Speakers and panellists include:

This webinar is scheduled at April 29, 2024, from 14:00 to 15:30 CET, online via Zoom.

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.

‘10 Must-Knows’ as guide for preserving biodiversity  

New policy report with chapter on integrating biodiversity conservation with forest management 

From yet undiscovered biodiversity to resilient forests and the impact of food consumption on nature: 64 experts have now pooled their knowledge and recommendations and published them in the form of “10 Must Knows from Biodiversity Research” for 2024. The new report from the Leibniz Biodiversity Research Network shows policymakers and society concrete ways in which biodiversity in Germany can be effectively conserved and used sustainably at local, national and European level, and how this can also protect the climate. One of the 10 Must-Knows specifically refers to the management of forests and is co-authored by scientists from the European Forest Insitute (EFI) in Bonn. With this new publication, the researchers contribute current scientific facts to the debate on the German National Biodiversity Strategy 2030, which is to be adopted before the next United Nations Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP 15) in autumn 2024.

Following the great response to the first “10 Must Knows from Biodiversity Research” published in 2022, scientists from a total of 52 German and international research institutions have now contributed their expertise from the environmental, life, spatial, social, humanities and economic sciences to the new version. 

“We are already exceeding planetary boundaries, both in terms of global warming and biodiversity loss. Joint responses are needed to counter these crises. We know that preserving biodiversity can significantly contribute to mitigating climate change, for example through biodiverse forests and rewetted peatlands that can act as carbon sinks. Only by focusing on measures to protect biodiversity can we succeed in tackling both crises at the same time,” says Kirsten Thonicke, lead author and Deputy Head of Research Department “Earth System Analysis” at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), who coordinates the research network. 

In chapter 5, ‘Harmonising the diverse use of forest ecosystems and biodiversity conservation’, seven scientists from five different research institutions, focus on the integration of biodiversity concerns and socio-economic demands to forests.

“We should adapt our management practices and spatial planning in a way that reconciles the diverse use of forest ecosystems with biodiversity conservation. This will enable us to counter the increasing negative impacts of climate change in forests while resolving trade-offs between competing forest-related policy objectives,” says lead author Mats Nieberg, researcher at PIK and EFI. 

Synergetic practices strengthen biodiversity and make forests more resilient to climate change and disturbance regimes, thus contributing to global climate adaption and mitigation strategies. Ecological and economic approaches should be integrated rather than seen as opposing forces. For this, the researchers refer to the notion of ‘sustainable multifunctional forest management’ and recommend policymakers the following:  

  • Coordinate forest, climate, biodiversity, bioeconomy and other policies to foster policy integration and coherence on different spatial scales to align forest ecosystem service provisioning, disturbance risk management and biodiversity conservation.  
  • Participatory decision-making in public forests and incentives for private forest owners boost the integration of biodiversity-enhancing measures into forestry practice.  
  • Domestic demand for wood products, wood supply as well as wood imports and exports need to be balanced to avoid biodiversity losses by increased harvests either domestically or internationally.  

Equally, they develop recommendations for societal actors, related to awareness-raising and sensitization strategies.  

Managed forest with deadwood and structural diversity in Aachen, NRW (Photo: Gesche Schifferdecker)

To implement the 23 global biodiversity framework targets agreed by United Nations member states at the UN Biodiversity Conference in December 2022 (COP 15), the German Biodiversity Strategy 2030 is currently being developed. The strategy aims to preserve and protect biodiversity in Germany. In order to provide up-to-date facts from the scientific community, the first version of the “10 Must Knows” from 2022 was thus expanded to include numerous new aspects and brought up to date with the help of current literature. 

The “10 Must Knows from Biodiversity Science 2024” are: 

1. Achieving climate and biodiversity protection together 

2. Enabling a healthy life on a healthy planet 

3. Considering undiscovered biodiversity 

4. Linking linguistic, cultural and biological diversity 

5. Harmonising the diverse use of forest ecosystems and biodiversity conservation 

6. Transforming agricultural and food systems 

7. Protecting land and resources 

8. Releasing transformative change through international collaboration and Education for Sustainable Development  

9. Ensuring free access and open use of biodiversity-related data  

10. Reducing biodiversity impacts from food consumption 

Click here to access the report and download the 10MustKnows24 

This text is partly based on the press release of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

FORWARDS project annual meeting: exploring and co-designing the forestward observatory

Advancing forest conservation and restoration initiatives through collaborative engagement

Berlin, 12-14 March 2024 – The FORWARDS project held its Annual Meeting from March 12th to 14th, 2024, convening the consortium to address progress, challenges, and future trajectories.

The focus of the meeting was co-designing the ForestWard Observatory, emphasizing collaborative design processes and efforts in disturbance mapping, supersite development, and remote sensing data utilization. Integration of remote sensing data for forest restoration and Climate-Smart Forest management was a key focal point.

A discussion ensued regarding the significance of demo sites, with representatives from Latvia (SILAVA), Italy (UNIMOL), Sweden (SLU), UK (Forest Research), and Switzerland (WSL) sharing insights. These sites employ innovative monitoring techniques for testing Climate Smart Forestry (CSF) & Restoration activities, serving as models for engagement with citizens and stakeholders. Plans involve expanding these demo sites into a Network of Pilot sites using grants-to-third-parties, which formed a significant part of the agenda as participants deliberated on strategies for their success.

Cross-project cooperation discussions included representatives from projects like SUPERB, TRANSFORMIT, ForestNavigator, HoliSoils, ForestPaths, and MoniFun, exploring synergies with FORWARDS, particularly in data integration and platform development.

Distinguished guests, including Jurij Krajcic from the European Commission – DG Clima, and Annemarie Bastrup-Birk from the European Environment Agency (EEA), provided insights into the evolving European Forest Monitoring Law and the Forest Information System for Europe (FISE), emphasizing the need for robust information to support forest-related policies.

Pieter Kempeneers from the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission praised the use of the Big Data Analytics Platform (BDAP) within FORWARDS for its transformative potential in forest mapping systems, facilitating collaboration and generating policy-relevant insights.

The meeting concluded with strategic discussions on the ForestWard Observatory’s development and outlined actionable steps for future progress, highlighting the importance of collaborative efforts in advancing forest conservation and restoration initiatives.

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.

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.