Breaking out of business as usual in Serbian forestry

On 23 November 2023, the second stakeholder workshop focusing on the SUPERB demo Coppice Forests in Serbia took place at the Monastery Vujan, in Prislonica. Engaging conversations around the ongoing restoration activities in the demo area were held with five participants, mostly coming from private forestry companies. This was also an excellent opportunity for the demo team to collect in-depth feedback from the participants.

The workshop started with a presentation on the work that has been done since the beginning of the project, followed by an overview of the ongoing and planned restoration activities. Particularly, all participants were very pleased to see the number of different noble tree species’ seedlings that were used in the restoration activities, such as Prunus avium L., Pyrus pyraster L., Acer platanoides L., Acer pseudoplatanus L., Corylus colurna L. They emphasised that SUPERB’s approach greatly differs from business-as-usual in Serbian forestry and appreciated how biodiversity preservation is well considered in the restoration activities.

After a short coffee break, the demo team opened the next session by presenting activities conducted in the past two years and upcoming plans. Two highlights of these past activities are the restoration of an area of 50ha and the planting of 16.920 seedlings during 2022-23! As for this year, the plan is to start the restoration on an area of 80ha using seedlings and natural regeneration where possible. While this session was mainly prepared for forest landowners and managers, participants expressed their interest in how the SUPERB project’s practical approach is backed by science. One of the participants was very interested in the remote sensing activities such as the use of LiDAR remote sensing (implemented by SUPERB colleagues from Bangor University and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) and was curious about who would come to perform this work and when. The session ended with playing the acoustic recording of the Žiča site, through which participants were able to enjoy different birds’ chirping.

Birds’ chirping recording of the Žiča site

After a wrap up session, the demo team led the participants through a walk in the forest. They visited areas where restoration had already taken place and saw first-hand what had been presented to them during the workshop. Some of the participants had already attended the first stakeholder workshop (also organised by the demo team) and were impressed to see how many of the previously planned activities are now taking shape!

Next steps: bringing more people on board!

Even though the participants expressed their full support to the restoration plans for the demo, there were no private and institutional landowners joining the workshop, and it is very important to have them onboard. Additionally, for the stakeholder engagement strategy, the demo team plans to actively participate in discussions about forest restoration, and to establish links with local communities, including primary schools and recreational forest users. It is of crucial importance to acknowledge the necessity of starting an extended dialogue with a wide range of local stakeholders to increase awareness about the importance of forest restoration and by this, secure their participation and support in the activities of the SUPERB project.

From vision to action – 2nd stakeholder workshop for forest restoration in Croatia and Serbia

On January 26, 2024, a group of 22 stakeholders from Croatia and Serbia gathered in the city of Osijek, Croatia, to participate in the second stakeholder workshop. The event, jointly organized by the Croatian Forest Research Institute and the Institute of Lowland Forestry and Environment, brought together a diverse array of forestry experts and stakeholders from both countries. The workshop featured prominent representatives from government bodies and agencies, research and academic institutions, public enterprises, professional associations, as well as other stakeholders, including regional and local associations, societies, and entities in the fields of nature conservation and hunting.

The second stakeholder workshop aimed to provide a comprehensive overview of the conducted and planned project activities, with a spotlight on activities carried out in the demonstration area. The workshop was structured around three informative sessions: (1) Information about the SUPERB project, including project objectives and activities, (2) Activities in the demonstration area, and (3) Planned steps and further stakeholder involvement.

Stakeholders expressed a keen interest in exploring the details of conducted activities and the engaging exchange of ideas underscored the stakeholders’ approval and appreciation for the restoration activities that have been undertaken. 

Following the indoor activities, all interested participants had the opportunity to visit the Croatian part of the demonstration area near the city of Osijek. The participants were taken to one of the chronosequence plots where the replacement of non native poplar plantation with pedunculate oak was successfully carried out on 50 hectares. This session not only provided valuable insights for workshop participants who are not directly involved in forestry but it also allowed participants to better understand the essential practices and activities crucial for the successful implementation of forest restoration. Furthermore, the inclusion of colleagues from the Republic of Serbia in this field visit further enhanced the interaction between workshop participants, contributing to a shared understanding of forestry practices at the regional level.

Field trip in the Croatian part of the demo area near Osijek

It’s also noteworthy that the workshop received notable media coverage, attracting attention from the „Croatian Radiotelevision“ and local radio stations, further amplifying the dissemination of information about the event and the SUPERB project.

Overall, it is safe to say that the second stakeholder workshop was undoubtedly a success thanks to the active participation, insightful discussions, and positive feedback from attendees. This affirmation reassures us that we are on the right path with our approach, aiming at fostering confidence in the effectiveness of our initiatives.

Restoring mountain forests in Romania

In the beginning of November 2023, the team of SUPERB’s Romanian demo started the restoration of high-altitude forest patches with spruce and arola pines. Interconnected with alpine bushes, this landscape type is protected at the European level as priority habitat.
In addition, the team planted a high-altitude secondary pasture, in an area that was affected by overgrazing in the past. The selected species – arola pine (Pinus cembra), mountain pine and juniper – grow naturally at an altitude of 1800m.
The work was extremely difficult because the area we planted is quite remote. Therefore, the transport of the seedlings was a hard job, done with rented donkeys.
Finally, 1500 juniper seedlings, 500 dwarf mountain pine and 400 arola pine were planted, manually of course, with the help of a local company.

Restoration in high altitudes

In the end of 2023, the SUPERB team also completed the restoration of seven spruce monocultures stands. They started with intervening with a first thinning in order to bring some light in the forest to enable the survival of planted or natural regenerated native species. The ultimate goal is to initiate the coming back of natural forest types of that area in former (spruce) monocultures.

Promoting more mixed forests in former spruce monoculture

What actions would be needed to restore European forest ecosystems?

In early 2024, the European Parliament will have a final vote on the ‘Nature Restoration Law’ (NRL), a hotly debated regulation that aims to halt and reverse biodiversity loss in Europe. An international team of scientists, led by Daniel Herring (University Duisburg-Essen), with contributions from European Forest Institute and Wageningen University and Research in the framework of the SUPERB project has investigated the prospects of the new regulation: how effective is this law going to be and what needs to happen? The article Securing success for the Nature Restoration Law was published on 15 December in the scientific journal Science. Even though the law has been weakened in the negotiation process, the restoration measures are already starting. 

The ‘Nature Restoration Law’ (NRL) requires member states of the EU to implement restoration measures on at least 20 per cent of land and marine areas by 2030, and in all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050. The NRL already took various hurdles: most recently, it was approved by the EU Parliament’s Environment Committee, after delegations of the Parliament and the Council of Europe agreed the final text.

But will the regulation really achieve its aims? The authors, including scientists that lead large European projects on nature restoration and biodiversity, analysed experiences with other European environmental directives and policies, and evaluated the prospects of the NRL to be successful. 

“The NRL has successfully overcome numerous challenges that typically impede the implementation of European policies and regulations. Regardless of the parliamentary decisions expected in January, urgent restoration efforts are already underway in many locations.” says Gert-Jan Nabuurs, Professor at Wageningen University and Research (WUR), and co-coordinator of SUPERB. “The regulation saves time as it does not need to be transposed into national law, and an implementation framework and goals are clearly laid out.” At the same time, national implementation will be crucial for the NRL’s success. “The scientific community is actively generating extensive knowledge on landscape-level nature restoration, approaching it through different lenses, including governance, community engagement, species selection for the future, and ensuring sustainable financing for restoration”, emphasizes Magda Bou Dagher Kharrat, SUPERB coordinator and Principal Scientist at European Forest Institute. “This will help European countries in preparing their national restoration plans.”

“Key for the implementation will be the cooperation of nature restoration with landowners and land users, in particular with managers and practitioners who directly work in the field”, says Silke Jacobs (WUR) who is part of SUPERB as well. “These managers and practitioners are crucial for long term maintenance of the forest. Only then forests will perform better for biodiversity, CO2 sequestration and wood provision in the long term”. Restoration takes time.

SUPERB is an excellent example of the European restoration initiatives aiming at large scale forest restoration, with several European countries implementing restoration measures. Given the variety of stressors which weakened the state of European forests over the past decades; ranging from wildfires, windstorms, bark beetle calamities to fragmentation and intensive plantations; the selection of appropriate restoration actions is crucial to succeed. However, essential part of the project is also the upscaling of the restoration actions. “Engagement and willingness of national and regional institutions, as well as involvement of private funding sector will allow to support and contribute to not only the nature restoration but it would also fulfil the goals of National Forest Strategies”, says Sara Filipek from WUR, working also on SUPERB project.   

Overall, the authors of the article provide a positive outlook for the NRL, but warn that ambitious national implementation and cooperation will eventually determine the success of nature restoration in Europe.

The NRL is part of the Green Deal and is, amongst others, intended to fulfil the international biodiversity agreement of Kunming-Montreal, according to which at least 30 percent of degraded ecosystems must be restored.

Further information: 

Daniel Hering et al, Securing success for the Nature Restoration Laws. Science 382, 1248-1250 (2023). DOI: 10.1126/science.adk1658

Webinar “Unveiling the Future of Christmas Trees in the Era of Climate Change”

Navigating Forest Disturbances, Restoration, and Adaptation

In our upcoming Forest Restoration Webinar with IUFRO‘s Task Force ‘Transforming Forest Landscapes for Future Climates and Human Well-Being’ on 13th December 4pm CET, our speaker Christina Dollinger (Technical University Munich) will introduce us to her research related to the Restoration of mountain forests in the Berchtesgaden National Park. Christina will elaborate on short- and long-term success in the face of climate change and share insights from her research combining field data and simulation modelling.

Register here to attend!

SUPERB presented to new forest research network in Germany

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.

 “Making people part of ecosystem restoration in Europe”  

#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.  

Webinar: New Standards of Practice to Guide Ecosystem Restoration – Views from Science and Practice

Join our upcoming SUPERB/IUFRO Forest Restoration Talk, co-hosted by the European Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration!

The Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) has co-authored a new set of “Standards of Practice to Guide Ecosystem Restoration”, launched this year in partnership with the FAO and IUCN-CEM as a contribution to the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Furthermore, various principles and standards guidance have been released or are under development since 2019, including the WWF-SER Mediterranean forest project certification standards, aiming to verify the quality of field-based restoration projects, providing guidance, structure, and an auditing process for ecological restoration.

In the next SUPERB/IUFRO Forest Restoration Talk, organised in collaboration with SER, George Gann, SER’s International Policy Lead, will present an overview of the new Standards of Practice including insights from the Mediterranean project, discussing how these can support the design, implementation, and funding of restoration actions.

He will be joined by Dr Michael Kleine, Deputy Executive Director & Coordinator at IUFRO’s Special Programme for Development of Capacities, who will provide views from a science and training perspective with reference to existing forest-related restoration guidelines and share experiences with implementing some of these on the ground.

Speakers:

  • George Gann, International Policy Lead, Society for Ecological Restoration (SER)
  • Michael Kleine, Deputy Executive Director & Coordinator, International Union of Forest Research Organizations, Special Programme for Development of Capacities (IUFRO-SPDC)

Moderators:

  • Magda Bou Dagher-Kharrat, Principal scientist at the Mediterranean Facility of the European Forest Institute and coordinator of the SUPERB project
  • Andreas Bolte, coordinator of the IUFRO Task Force “Transforming Forest Landscapes for Futures Climates and Human Well-Being”

Webinar: Public perceptions of Forest Landscape Restoration

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.

Register here: Webinar-Registration – Forest Restoration Talks – Zoom

Helping our forests to realize their full potential

SUPERB researchers suggest improvements to Nature Restoration Law

The SUPERB project aims at large scale forest restoration in Europe, combining scientific and practical knowledge to drive actionable outcomes. In our recent policy brief, some of our high-level scientists developed recommendations for changes to the proposed EU Nature Restoration law based on the concepts underpinning our approach to forest restoration. These recommendations prioritize forward-looking restoration strategies by emphasizing ecosystem self-organization and climate change adaptation rather than aiming to restore our forests to past historical states.

Read our policy brief to explore how we can help our forest in Europe to realize their full and positive potential for the future.