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.

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.

How to build a forest restoration community 

On November 20-22, 2023, our hybrid SUPERB Restoration Project Festival brought together 25 forest restoration experts in Milan in addition to a vibrant online community. Here we recap the key moments: 

Day 1 started with a deep dive into innovative funding and long-term continuity for forest restoration projects: 

  • Dr. Thomas Campagnaro from the Università degli Studi di Padova shared insights on upscaling approaches in forest biodiversity, including the BOTTOMS-UP project 
  • Antti Leinonen from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland presented the Forest Biodiversity Programme METSO and its success in securing long-term funding. 
  • Dr. Giustino Mezzalira, forestry engineer and consultant, discussed innovative financing for large-scale forest restoration on the Marcesina plateau in Italy. 

Day 2 was all about collaboration and knowledge exchange: 

  • Participants took centre stage and shared best practices on boosting ecosystem resilience, reconciling conflicting goals and objectives, monitoring project successes and building partnership within their respective projects. 
  • The SUPERB Gateway – an upcoming public online database for tools on forest restoration practice, science, governance, and funding – was presented.  
  • Participants completed the SUPERB Practice Questionnaire which aims to bring valuable information from across European forestry projects to this community. Would you like to contribute? Please complete the survey here

On Day 3 we explored the impactful role of storytelling in fostering multistakeholder collaboration in restoration. In this workshop by the European Forest Institute, we drew examples from the SUPERB demonstrator area Vindeläven-Juhtatdahka Biosphere Reserve in Sweden. 

In Milan, the festival concluded with a guided visit led by SUPERB partner Fabio Campana to Parco Nord, the city’s largest urban forest and part of the SUPERB Po Valley demo area. 

The success of the festival was the achievement of our participants and owes much to our diverse speakers on days 2 and 3: 

Lastly, congratulations to Marijan Lozancic on winning the festival’s visual exhibition contest with a video on demining interventions in Bosnian forests! 

A heartfelt thanks to our project partners and speakers for their cooperation, and to all participants for joining us to share their invaluable perspectives and build future partnerships. 

The event was organised by SUPERB partner Prospex Institute. 

Guided visit to Paco Nord urban forest in Milan

Spotlight on the SUPERB Spanish demo at the IUFRO conference in Évora

The SUPERB Spanish demo took center stage at the IUFRO Forest Environment DIV 8 Conference 2023 in Évora, Portugal, showcasing its tailor-made approach for addressing three challenges at once: land abandonment, heightened forest fire risks and fragmentation of Cantabrian brown bear habitats.

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.

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

Webinar: “Situating forest restoration with digital methods”

What can restoration practitioners learn from activity around forests and forest restoration on the web and social media? In our upcoming session of the Forest Restoration Webinar series on 14th June 4pm CET our SUPERB colleagues Jonathan Gray, Senior Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies, and Liliana Bounegru, Lecturer in Digital Methods, King’s College London, as well as Rina Tsubaki, Communications Manager with European Forest Institute discuss how we use online data and humanities-based digital methods to explore how restoration and other forest-related issues are engaged with on the web, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms. We discuss examples on a variety of forest-related issues and practices, including forest fires, forest bathing, rewilding, and forest restoration. Are you intrigued? Register here!

SUPERB & IUFRO 1st Forest Restoration Talk with John Stanturf: “If nature is the solution, what is the problem?”

You are invited to join our new “Monthly Forest Restoration Talks”, hosted by SUPERB in partnership with IUFRO‘s Task Force ‘Transforming Forest Landscapes for Future Climates and Human Well-Being’.

Targeting researchers, practitioners, NGOs, policy makers and other interested stakeholders, the webinar series will investigate forest restoration questions from diverse scientific perspectives, with alternating focus on the global and European levels. This includes exploring practical forest restoration approaches, experiences and challenges worldwide.

Taking place on Wednesday, 9 November from 16:00-17:30 CET, the first webinar features forest restoration specialist John Stanturf as a speaker, discussing the topic “If nature is the solution, what is the problem? A perspective from forest landscape restoration”.

Following webinars will take place every second Wednesday of the month at the same time. Save the date for the second webinar on 14 December, when KU Leuven professor Bart Muys will discuss “Biodiversity as a key asset for forest restoration in Europe“!

You can join all future webinars on Zoom by registering with this link and using the passcode 540128.

A new online tool to make restoration decisions easier

Ecosystem restoration is a complex process, from identifying in-need landscapes to determining best practices for planting trees and promoting natural regeneration. To help restoration actors, funders and other partners plan, carry out and monitor successful projects, FAO and World Resources Institute (WRI) have created AURORA, a web application named for Assessment, Understanding and Reporting of Restoration Activities. The application is now live and ready to support users as they make decisions and select desired impacts and indicators, set goals and monitor the progress of their restoration projects.

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