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)
#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.
#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.
Did you know that forest trees have evolved at species and population levels to adapt to the local environment in which they grow? Such local adaptations lead to genetically differentiated populations, with traits that enable them to adapt to biotic and abiotic stress factors. Climate change is likely to exert tremendous pressure on forests and their ecosystem services. As the climate changes, forest tree populations are likely to respond in three possible ways: adapt, migrate, or become locally extinct. Natural migration and adaptation are slow processes that cannot keep up with this rapidly changing climate and would result in maladapted tree populations in the future, with reduced capacity to provide multiple ecosystem services. Given the limitations in natural tree migration and rapid adaptation, researchers have realized that we need human-facilitated realignment to match the populations to the environment to which they are adapted. Such facilitated movement is commonly referred to as assisted migration, assisted colonization, assisted relocation, or facilitated migration. On a practical level, such strategies include the choice of adapted species and seed sources. We can use provenance trials where several seed sources of a tree species are planted under a common environment. These offer a unique opportunity to model tree species and their population’s response to climate change. Such models include species distribution models, and response functions.
Our summer school on assisted migration
We, a team of researchers from the Austrian Research Center for Forests (BFW, Vienna) recently hosted a six-day summer school aiming at providing in-depth insight into the concept of assisted migration of forests under climate change, and with a focus on models to guide decision support.
The summer school was organized in collaboration with The EVOLTREE network and the Czech University of Life Sciences (CZU) and took place at the Forestry Training Center at Traunkirchen from July 30 to August 4, 2023. We broadly discussed several topics including climate change and its effects on European forests, options for adaptation and mitigation, and the importance of genetic diversity. We also explored ways of incorporating genetic diversity in decision-making, especially data sources for developing models for assisted migration, provenance trial history and current use, and elaborated the current discourse on assisted migration, challenges, and opportunities.
One of the objectives was to familiarize the 23 participants from across Europe and Australia with different concepts of modeling on assisted migration, issues on genetic diversity, and climate change. Later, the participants analyzed real-time provenance trial data which were systematically provided by BFW and developed their models showcasing seed transfer under climate change.
Outdoor Activities – from seedlings to hiking and homebrewed beer
As part of the summer school we organized an excursion to visit LIECO forest nurseries and provenance trials in St-Martin Austria. LIECO is a forest company producing high-quality containerized forest seedlings in Austria. There, the participants had firsthand experience of planting seedlings and further understanding the process of growing sustainable forest planting materials. This was followed by a hike to a traditional Alpine Hut (Alm-Hochstein) where we exchanged ideas over homebrewed beer and lip-smacking food. Finally, the perfect location of Traunkirchen by the beautiful Traun lake offered many recreational opportunities for both the participants and the organizers.
The FORWARDS project has launched a funding call to set up Climate-Smart Forestry (CSF) and forest restoration pilots across Europe. These pilots will serve as a basis for developing an evidence-based understanding of effective CSF and restoration management practices in supporting climate change mitigation, adaptation, and biodiversity. Supported projects and activities should establish new field trials in forests for CSF and restoration management practices or test new practices in existing field trials. The call, which is open from 31st July until 31st October 2023, will fund up to five projects.
Each awarded project will be granted up to EUR 140,000 and is expected to commence around the beginning of 2024, with a duration of maximum 18 months. Later this year and for the duration of its lifespan FORWARDS will launch many more calls to fund projects across different themes. European Forest Institute manages the grants as FORWARDS partner.
FORWARDS is a project funded by the European Union that will prototype the ForestWard Observatory, a pan-European monitoring and evaluation tool that will help in demonstrating the impact of climate change on forests, and guiding decision-making for practical forest management. For more information on the FORWARDS project, please visit: https://forwards-project.eu/
FORWARDS is an EU-funded project that will prototype The ForestWard Observatory, a pan-European monitoring and evaluation tool that will help in demonstrating the impact of climate change on forests, guiding decision-making for practical forest management.
Five projects for building new climate-smart forest and forest restoration trials will be supported in the first round of calls by FORWARDS, with a total grant value of EUR 700,000 with a single grant value of maximum EUR 150,000. By the end of July, the application window for this grant call will be opened by EFI – the European Forest Institute.
Projects resulting from successful submissions are anticipated to commence around the beginning of 2024. Each project has a maximum duration of 18 months. The project will issue numerous additional calls for funding for projects with various themes throughout the remainder of the year and until it is completed. If you work in Climate-Smart Forestry, watch out for the launch at the end of July. The call will be published on EFI’s grants webpage https://efi.int/grants-training/grants.
With a total budget of €14m and more than 19 partners involved, FORWARDS – with the ForestWard Observatory – will provide timely and detailed information on European forests’ vulnerability to climate change. The project will also deliver science-based knowledge to guide management using the principles of climate-smart forestry, ecosystem restoration and biodiversity preservation, developed in close consultation with relevant stakeholder groups. To set up The ForestWard Observatory, FORWARDS will launch at least five grant calls with a total value of EUR 6 million to fund 50 projects.
The data and the results from these projects will feed into The ForestWard Observatory.The ForestWard Observatory will be a long-lasting practical tool to support decision making:
at European and national scale to provide a strategic perspective of disturbances, future risks, and critical vulnerabilities and threats to European forests;
at regional and local scale to deliver more operational information for local CSF & Restoration management practice.
By operating at both these scales, the project will help improve the accuracy and timeliness of threat detection for European forests while enabling local management teams to respond promptly using a scientific basis. In this respect, The ForestWard Observatory will draw on available networks and data streams to apply pioneering approaches.
At the IUFRO World Congress taking place in Stockholm in 2024, SUPERB is hosting a panel discussion and poster session on “Prestoration – combining restoration and adaptation – of European forests for people and planet”.
In our session, we will focus on bringing together major challenges: 1) the need for forest restoration for the conservation of forest biodiversity and provision of ecosystem services, and 2) the urgency of forest adaptation to climate change. 3) Furthermore, the practice side is facing diverging expectations both from policy side and society on the role of forests to protect biodiversity, adapt societies to global change and mitigate the impacts of climate change including through forest-based products. At the same time, 4) the finance sector is more than ever ready to invest into nature and green solutions, however there is large uncertainty about the quality and long-term benefits of investment opportunities, how to credit these, and how to effectively bring the large demand for investment opportunities and the widespread but dispersed need for locally-adapted prestoration (restoration combined with adaptation) actions together. If you work on one or more of these four topics/perspectives related to forest restoration, please submit your abstract viahttps://iufro2024.com/call-for-congress-abstracts/and make sure to contribute to an inspiring session!
Featured image: Prestoration planned in SUPERB’s demo in Arnsberg, Germany.
Check out the videos of the EUFORGEN Webinar Series
Rising temperatures across Europe, extreme weather events, higher fire risk or increased vulnerability to biotic disturbances such as pests and diseases are some of the consequences of climate change on forests. In the case of biotic outbreaks, scientists have been investigating how to make tree populations more resilient from a genetic perspective and to understand alternatives for tree conservation in case of diseases or pests.
To further explore this issue and understand today’s scientific advances, the EUFORGEN Secretariat organised in February a webinar series entitled “Biotic outbreak management of the Genetic Conservation Units Network: case study on ash dieback”, which consisted of three online sessions open to the public. The virtual sessions featured a panel of researchers and scientific experts to examine the specific problem of ash dieback in Europe from different angles.
You can find more info on the series including the videos here.