Discussion with stakeholders on how to improve the resilience of intensive pine monocultures with the introduction of hedgerows in the French Landes of Gascony Forest.
On 7 September 2023, a large panel of 24 forest stakeholders gathered in Belin-Béliet (France) for the 2nd BOCAGE FORESTIER Living Lab consultation workshop since the SUPERB project began. The Living Lab was launched a few years ago with the support of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region and the forestry sector, aiming at improving the heterogeneity and resilience of maritime pine monoculture landscape towards biotic and abiotic threats. After some preliminary studies including the choice of the most suitable demonstration area and the design of methodologies, our coordination team was pleased to present some concrete implementation of our restoration activities. The workshop began with an indoor meeting with presentations to remind the participants of the SUPERB project and the Living Lab’s objectives, followed by a short field tour to illustrate our activities directly in the forest.
On the one hand, we are carrying out biodiversity sampling in mature hedgerows to understand the effect of landscape connectivity and broadleaved species patch density on the richness of fauna and flora. We have also designed educational panels for each taxon studied to initiate discussions about both the data collection protocol and the first results obtained. On the other hand, we are establishing new hedgerows planting trials in renewed maritime pine stands to refine the technical aspects and be able to provide forest owners with a fully operational solution. The complementary nature of our workshop programme was greatly appreciated by the participants, who now have a concrete understanding of what we mean by ‘forest restoration’ and know exactly what they can expect from future outcomes. The topic was considered so important by some participants that they are asking for wider communications and rapid adoption of these results.
The next steps for the BOCAGE FORESTIER Living Lab are to start planting hedgerows within the demo area with the aim of achieving 10km of linear planted by the end of the project. Restoration sites will depend on the private landowner’s interest in implementing this solution but they may also be determined by the results of the biodiversity sampling, which we will try to synthesize by spring.
From October 24th to 27th, SUPERB’s Judit Torres (CESEFOR) attended the conference, representing the Spanish demo in the session “Forest Landscape Restoration: resilient socioecological landscapes in the making”. The session explored solutions for designing, implementing, and monitoring forest restoration in collaboration with stakeholders from academia, NGOs, government, and the private sector.
Rural abandonment in the SUPERB Spanish demo, located in the region of Castille and Leon, has led to insufficient forest management and landscape degradation, resulting in scrubbing of the landscape, homogenisation of the territory and increased forest fire risks. This situation also poses a significant threat to the recovery of the Cantabrian brown bear, a highly endangered species in Europe, due to loss of habitat. At the IUFRO conference session, Torres shared insights into the project’s progress and lessons learned while addressing these interconnected issues, focusing on topics such as stakeholder engagement, improvements in interactions between residents and the environment, and possibilities for upscaling forest restoration.
She shared the round table with three other speakers: René Zamora Cristales (World Resources Institute), Alejandro Huertas Herrera and Mónica Toro Manriquez (Centro de Investigación En Ecosistemas De La Patagonia). The session was moderated by John Devaney (Maynooth University), Anna Barbati (University of Tuscia), and João Azevedo (Instituto Politécnico de Bragança).
You can learn more about the SUPERB demo in Spain and their restoration measures here.
SUPERB Demo area – North Rhine Westphalia – SUPERB (forest-restoration.eu) lead Catharina Schmidt introduced the project work on October 30th and 31st in Arnsberg, Germany, to a group of ca. 40 scientists and practitioners from various organisations based in NRW. Aim of the “Forest Research NRW“ event was to discuss the latest scientific results and practical challenges related to how we can better prepare and adapt our forests in times of climate change. The agenda of the symposium included topics such as the opportunities of digitalization in the forest for climate change adaptation, the performance of forest soils, questions of forest governance as well as reflections on how to combine climate protection and timber construction. The event was organized on the initiative of the NRW Ministry of Agriculture and Consumer Protection with the objective to establish a new forest research network in NRW, formally announced by NRW Minister for Agriculture and Consumer Protection Silke Gorißen on October 30th.
The workshop also included an excursion to SUPERB’s demo sites in Arnsberg, where participants learned about ongoing forest restoration measures: reforesting beetle-infected spruce forests into more diverse, mixed-forest ecosystems by using a combination of natural regeneration and replanting.
The FORWARDS project, funded under Horizon Europe, announces the launch of two new calls for grants aimed at advancing forest monitoring and disturbance characterization after the first one was launched in July 2023.
The calls for grants present a unique opportunity for researchers and organisations to contribute to the development of the ForestWard Observatory, a pan-European monitoring tool that addresses the impact of climate change on forests. These third-party grants are coordinated by European Forest Institute, partner in the FORWARDS project.
FORWARDS is seeking proposals for pilot monitoring plots/sites that will assess the long-term impact of climate change on forest ecosystems. These sites must be linked to existing forest monitoring networks and provide spatial representativeness. The primary goal is to gather data on forest functioning and disturbance impacts to better understand climate change effects over various time scales.
Data and results from the supported projects will contribute to the ForestWard Observatory. Up to five projects will be awarded a maximum of €145,000 each, with activities set to begin in April 2024 and lasting up to 18 months.
This call aims to support the construction of an exhaustive open-access reference dataset on forest disturbance. It will be used for rigorous disturbance estimation, developing algorithms for near real-time forest disturbance mapping, and analysing the effects of disturbances across European forest types.
Up to three projects will be awarded a maximum of €150,000 each, with activities set to begin in April 2024 and lasting up to 12 months.
These calls are highly important in advancing our knowledge of climate change impact on forests and improving monitoring capabilities. They offer a valuable opportunity for collaboration and knowledge-sharing among European researchers and organisations.
For detailed application guidelines and further information, please visit EFI website and FORWARDS project website.
Featured image: Sara Uzquiano (post-doc researcher at European Forest Institute)
What is SUPERB? How does our research look like? And why do we talk about a “Prestoration” approach? Recently, Catharina Schmidt, leader of SUPERB’s NRW demo, and Simon Fleckenstein, PhD student from University of Freiburg presented SUPERB at the poster session of the International Forestry Students’ Symposium (IFSS) in Freiburg. Simon provided the audience, consisting of approximately 100 international forestry students from around the world, with a general overview of the project’s objectives and structures, while Catharina shared some hands-on experiences from the German demo and discussed their specific approach to “Prestoration.”
IFSS is the largest annual meeting of the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA). It provides students with the opportunity to participate in various forestry activities, exchange information, and share their experiences. The theme for this year’s event was “Transforming Forestry – Staying Ahead of Current and Future Challenges,” which thematically aligns perfectly with the SUPERB project. IFSA students traveled throughout Germany for two weeks, gaining insights into German forests and forestry. During their weekend in Freiburg, they were also joined by IFSA SAN, the IFSA Alumni Network.
#RestorationStory by Lyla O’ Brien, European Forest Institute
It’s early morning on an abnormally cold October day, yet I hurry past the steaming coffee prepared outside the meeting room. It’s the second day of the workshop Making people part of ecosystem restoration in Europe hosted by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation and I’m running a little late. I don’t want to miss the chance to pour over and vote for my favourite take-home message from yesterday’s session on public perception of ecosystem restoration and stakeholder engagement. My eyes, like many others, go to one quote in particular among the sea of sticky notes on the online board: “Create space for meaningful engagement as open as possible, as early as possible, as personal as possible”. The workshop, which took place from the 17th-19th of October in Bonn, Germany, was packed full of memorable quotes like this one from European experts from science, policy, and practice that came together to discuss how the inclusion and acceptance of stakeholders can be strengthened in ecosystem restoration. Not only were participants from diverse sectors, but they were experienced in ecosystem restoration of diverse types all over Europe, whether it be beech forests in Italy, grasslands in Germany, steppe plains in Georgia, or wetlands in Finland.
Ecosystem restoration can face many challenges when it comes to stakeholder engagement. For example, when participants were asked to help create an online word map by submitting a few words on what they thought was the greatest challenge for successful grassroots initiatives, it was just a few seconds before “lack of funding”, “lack of commitment”, “no meaningful engagement of local communities” appeared on the screen in large letters. I came to the workshop to present our work in SUPERB’s WP5 T5.2 on identifying conflicts that affect forest restoration in SUPERB’s 12 demonstration cases, so I was already somewhat aware of such stakeholder difficulties. However, I was surprised to learn about some of the more creative ways participants had explored to engage stakeholders more meaningfully.
When you close your eyes and think of ecosystem restoration, an image of planting a tree might come to mind, or the return of a certain species that has been missing from the landscape for a long time. But what about a sculpture made of over 80,000 aromatic plants spread across two hectares in the shape of a local cave painting in Spain? Or a video filmed together with local communities that aims to capture the sounds or “symphony” of a natural landscape? To ecologists or conservationists like myself, these may not be conventional approaches to restoration, but over the course of the workshop I was surprised to learn about the success that art can bring to our efforts. Art can act as a way to reconnect people to a landscape by helping them to express their emotional connection to it. It can make restoration more fun and hope-filled, take a multifaceted range of forms including work with textiles, media, dance, and sculpture, and engage a wide range of people including young people. I found myself thinking about what the “symphony” of the landscape surrounding my hometown would sound like: the sound of a lazy river meandering through meadows, the melody of so many songbirds all at once, the sound of a dairy cow grazing. It was not hard to see how these types of engagement that touch home can encourage people to participate in restoration.
Over the next two days, I heard more inspirational stories of stakeholder engagement, grassroots initiatives, tools and guidelines for ecosystem restoration, as well as conflicts and trade-offs. As to be expected, discussions on conflicts were sometimes difficult to have, but were always centred on finding ways for conflict resolution. Participants stressed the importance to stop trends of working in silos and engage also with stakeholders that may not support their restoration efforts. As one participant summarised, “Disagreements can be opportunities to learn about ourselves, others, and our community. They can help us grow as individuals and build stronger relationships”. Overall, the workshop was a valuable opportunity to talk about SUPERB’s work, but also an opportunity to think outside our usual boxes on how to ensure ecosystem restoration in Europe is not just for the natural environment but for the people, too.
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!
Presenting a much-needed approach to repair damage to Europe’s forests, the proposed EU Nature Restoration Law (NRL) is an unparalleled opportunity to prevent the worst impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss across Europe. Still, it doesn’t come without challenges. One of the challenges for decision-makers, forest managers and stakeholders is to navigate the complex environment of forest and forest-related policies at the EU level. Other challenges come with the integrability of the provisions made by the proposed NRL with diverse national policy and legal frameworks of the European Member States.
This upcoming Forest Restoration Talk will explore policy coherences and incoherences between the Nature Restoration Law and other pieces of legislation, debating the main synergies and trade-offs that are likely to affect stakeholders and competing demands for a variety of forest ecosystem services. The discussion will be based on an analysis of multilevel and cross-sectoral policy coherence conducted as part of the SUPERB project and building on an extensive mapping of forest restoration-related policies in Europe.
Date and time: 18 October 2023 at 15:00 CEST
Metodi Sotirov, Senior Researcher & Assistant Professor in Forest and Environmental Policy,University of Freiburg
Simon Fleckenstein, Project Researcher and PhD Candidate in Forest and Environmental Policy, University of Freiburg
Ana Rocha, Director – EU Agriculture & Forestry policies, European Landowners’ Organization (ELO)
#Restoration Story by Ajdin Starcevic, Wageningen University and Research
If I had to encapsulate my recent journey to the Serbian forest in just two words, they would undoubtedly be “pleasantly surprised”.
Our arrival in Belgrade took place on a hot late September day, amidst the warmth that characterizes the Balkans’ phenomenon known as “Miholjsko ljeto”. A period of unseasonably warm, dry weather that sometimes occurs in autumn. It’s rather amusing, in retrospect, how serendipitous it felt as we embarked on our journey to the final destination, Novi Sad—the hometown of a renowned singer-songwriter who has a tune coincidentally named ”Miholjsko leto 95’”, which I would listen to during my teens. But let’s momentarily set aside my high school nostalgia and return to the narrative.
Our expedition to Serbia served a dual purpose, each with its distinct goal. The initial part of our journey was dedicated to the EFI Annual Conference, a commemoration of the European Forest Institute’s three-decade-long journey. En route to Serbia, we pored over the pages of “An Idea Becomes a Reality”, a book that had been published on EFI’s 10th anniversary. Our supervisor Gert-Jan Nabuurs, professor of European forest resources at Wageningen University and Research, amused us with the intricate tale of how it all commenced and evolved. By the time we touched down, my colleague Bas Lerink and I had a profound respect and a sense of honour for being able to be a part of the beautiful EFI family.
The two days of the conference flew by, filled with engaging conversations with both familiar and new faces. Each of us from the Wageningen team played a role in it; Bas participated as a panelist in one of the discussions, Gert-Jan took on the role of a managing senior, exploring new opportunities for us to make a positive impact on the European environmental scene, and I had the privilege of being a presenter in the Young Scientist Session.
The second part of our journey offered a stark contrast to the formalities of the EFI Annual Conference – no more suits, fancy city halls, or gala dinners. Instead, we swapped that for boots and forest green pants as we met our hosts, Zoran, Martina, and Velisav from the Institute of Lowland Forestry and Environment, on an early Friday morning, with the sun rising over the Petrovaradin fortress in Novi Sad. Accompanied by Magda Bou Dagher-Kharrat, the SUPERB project coordinator, and Bart Muys, professor of forest ecology and forest management at KU Leuven, we set off to explore the local SUPERB demo site.
After a scenic hour-and-a-half drive northwest of Novi Sad, passing through the vast golden- coloured cornfields of the Vojvodina region, we finally reached the local office of the Special Nature Reserve “Gornje Podunavlje”. Here, we were warmly welcomed by the dedicated team implementing the SUPERB project on the ground in Serbia: Slađana, Radmila, Andrea, Peđa, Ognjen and Srđan. From there, we ventured into an enchanting oak forest that seemed taken right out of a fairy tale to visit the first chronosequence site. It teemed with biodiversity, evidenced by the wild game tracks in the mud and different types of oak galls, some of which were new to all of us. Our hosts explained that this is the legacy they aim to leave behind; the work they are doing today will ultimately result in forests like this thriving a century from now.
Adjacent to this forest, we encountered a vast clearing of approximately 30 hectares, which was once a poplar plantation. Zoran confidently declared, “This is where we will implement the SUPERB restoration measures”. I must admit that at least the Dutch members of our team were initially sceptical. We doubted the possibility of oak trees successfully establishing themselves in such a large clearing. However, as we would soon discover, we were mistaken.
Afterwards, we took a brief boat ride along one of the Danube’s channels to look at the “European Amazon” from a different perspective.
Upon returning to the shore, we hopped back into our Dusters and made our way to a site that had been previously restored 12 years ago—a crucial chronosequence for the SUPERB project. After opening a sturdy fence, we were greeted by the sight of oak trees reaching a towering height of around 8 meters, growing alongside hornbeam, ash, and black locust, all thriving naturally. This site had been sown with acorns 12 years ago and was flourishing, proving that it was indeed possible.
However, it was evident that our hosts had put in tremendous effort, involving extensive manual labour, to erect strong fences to keep out the ca. 2000 red deer and hundreds of wild boars inhabiting the area. This region is, after all, one of Serbia’s largest hunting areas. Additionally, various interventions were necessary to eliminate weeds and other competitive vegetation, allowing the oaks to grow and prosper.
The second chronosequence, an 12 year old oak stand (Photo: Ajdin Starcevic)
Following this, we visited another oak stand that had been established just five years ago. While it looked promising, the soil quality posed a challenge, making it hard for us to believe that these saplings would reach the impressive 8-meter height we had seen earlier in only seven years. However, Zoran assured us it would work out, and by now, we had learned to trust his expertise.
Our learning experience related to the forest restoration measures we’ve seen illustrates the importance of local knowledge and expertise in projects like SUPERB. Another crucial factor to consider is the strong partnership forged between the managers and scientists. This collaboration has been nurtured and strengthened over the years, primarily grounded on a foundation of trust. We might have dismissed such an endeavour, but local forest managers and scientists understand what is possible and what they can achieve.
View of the area where restoration measures are being implemented for SUPERB (Photo: Ajdin Starcevic)
On the second day, we were accompanied also by Christophe Orazio from the European Institute of Planted Forest, leader of SUPERB’s demo in France who specializes in plantation forestry. Together, we visited sites similar to those we had seen the day before. We also observed an area where SUPERB measures had been implemented but, unfortunately, achieved little success due to an unusually hot and dry summer that left the planted oak seedlings struggling. Here, additional work will be done, with new oak acorns to be sown in place of the earlier seedlings. Trees grown from acorns exhibit greater vigour, but during the initial campaign, there was a shortage of acorns, and time constraints forced the use of seedlings instead.
In addition to the oak forests in various stages of development, we also had the opportunity to explore poplar plantations, which are the backbone of the Public Enterprise Vojvodinašume. At one point, we observed two stands, one of oak and one of poplar, planted in the same year. The difference in size was striking (see picture below). As I took this photo, I noticed that the soybean field I stood on was perfectly divided between the two stands. The field next to the poplar plantation had already been harvested, appearing brown and dry, while the field opposite the oaks remained fresh and green. This observation perfectly encapsulated the work of these foresters. They are transitioning from a potentially dry and impoverished scenario, exacerbated by the impacts of climate change associated with poplars, toward a more climate-resilient oak forest. This oak forest is not only promising and green but also biodiverse and beautiful, reflecting their dedication to a sustainable and prosperous future.
This is one of the key reasons why I would describe this trip as a pleasant surprise. The eagerness of the local foresters to shift from their conventional business practices towards a more climate-smart approach to forest management, all while considering the long-term effects of climate change and willingly sacrificing short-term profits for the betterment of future forests in the Vojvodina region, felt truly refreshing and makes me optimistic for the future of the European Amazon in challenging times.
Old-growth forests are vital for biodiversity and climate change mitigation, a key focus of the EU’s 2030 Biodiversity Strategy. This strategy aims to protect 30% of EU land, with 10% under strict protection, including old-growth forests. However, defining old growth forests remains challenging due to data limitations and variations in characteristics, which will be discussed in the international conference “Old-growth forests in the context of climate policy: what is and what is not an old-growth forest?” organized by the Latvian State Forest Research Institute Silava as part of the FORWARDS project. Latvia has studied old-growth forests since 2016, assessing both tree species and climate impact. This conference is designed to foster the exchange of cutting-edge knowledge and research on old-growth forests, with a particular focus on the challenges of defining old-growthness in various forest ecosystems.
The conference takes place on October 12, 2023 from 9:30 am – 15:30 pm (CET) as a hybrid event. You can check out the programme here.
Following the conference, in-person participants can join a field visit to old-growth forest sites in Latvia (October 13, 2023).
The conference is open to all interested parties and is free of charge, and the working language is English. For virtual participants the online link for the conference will be sent shortly before the event.
To confirm your participation and express your interest in the field visit, please respond to the provided email address: daiga.zute[at]silava.lv by October 10, 2023.
The conference promises to be a vital forum for researchers, policymakers, and conservationists to engage in meaningful discussions on old-growth forests and their role in climate policy.