Investigating European forests’ vulnerability to climate change

New FORWARDS project will work with SUPERB to deliver science-based knowledge to guide management using the principles of climate-smart forestry, ecosystem restoration, and biodiversity conservation.

With a total budget of €14m funded by the European Commission’s HorizonEurope (plus additional funding by Switzerland and the UK) and more than 19 partners involved, the FORWARDS project (ForestWard Observatory to Secure Resilience of European Forests) will provide timely and detailed information on European forests’ vulnerability to climate change. With its activities, FORWARDS aims at supporting European forests and society to transform, adapt, and mitigate climate-induced changes.

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Updates from our demo Queen Elizabeth Forest Park

During a trip to Scotland in September, our colleagues from Wageningen Research made a field visit to the restoration sites in Queen Elizabeth Forest Park (QEFP) guided by demo leader Bruce Nicoll. Within the Scottish demo, one of the measures is to transform monocultures of Sitka spruce to continuous cover forestry (CCF), besides diversifying forest’s age structure and species composition. The second restoration activity will be along the river, restoring the riparian woodlands and implementing Natural Flood Management techniques (e.g., leaky dams, timber bunds) aimed at reducing flood peaks. The third restoration activity is high elevation planting. The field visit was a great way of getting to know the Scottish situation. The next day the group was welcomed at the office of Forest Research, where they also met Tom Locatelli. During the day they discussed the SUPERB activities ahead and among them was the workplan which is now finalized.  

Sitka spruce

At the beginning of November, the Scottish demo held its stakeholder workshop. Planned restoration activities were discussed in the field during an extended visit to representative sites within QEFP. The workshop was a very enjoyable experience for the Forest Research (FR) and Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) SUPERB teams, as well as for the participants, who asked very many questions and engaged in discussions about SUPERB, QEFP, and upscaling forest restoration in Scotland and the UK. Given the dense content and structure of the workshop, and the multiple requirements from various WPs, the changes to allow extended forest visits introduced some logistic challenges that required careful planning and timing of the numerous workshop activities. Thanks to the positive and engaging spirit of QEFP’s stakeholders, all the project requirements for the workshop were achieved very satisfactorily. The FR and FLS team are looking forward to welcoming their participants back to QEFP for a full-day visit to forest restoration sites in QEFP during the summer of 2023, and to expanding their stakeholder network and activities during 2023. 

From the birds’ eye perspective to actions on the ground

SUPERB to promote forest restoration and adaptation across Europe

By Gesche Schifferdecker

Imagine you were a bird flying over Europe. You would see cities and villages, rivers, agricultural landscape, and forests covering almost one-third of Europe. You would distinguish many different types of trees: dark green or more reddish, straight and tall, wide and crooked or small and slender, with many different shapes of leaves or needles. While flying over Europe, you would also encounter damaged forest areas, burned down by the fire, or destroyed by bark beetles; and tree leaves affected by air pollution and herbivorous pests, or turning yellow and brown from a drought.

These disturbances overall are becoming more frequent and severe, be it due to various short-sighted human interventions or ongoing climate change. Luckily, it is not all bad news. From the air, you would also see people working in these damaged forests, planting or seeding new trees, or protecting the naturally regenerating forest against grazing. You would discover people preserving surviving old trees or even the deadwood, because these people have understood how valuable they are for a functioning ecosystem. If done right and with some luck, a diverse and healthy forest will again develop, which will be roamed once more by the many forest creatures.

While there is widespread awareness of the urgency to conserve and restore biodiversity and halt climate change, in fact many more actions are needed on the ground to ensure the long-term thriving of forests in Europe. A series of political commitments at the European level are already in place, including the 2019 European Green Deal, the 2020 EU Biodiversity Strategy and the EU Forest Strategy 2030. Yet, in many places, transformative change is still needed on the ground.

From challenges to opportunities

Carpathia demo area in Rumania (photo: Martin Mikoláš)
Carpathian demo area in Romania (photo: Martin Mikoláš)

This is why we are launching “Systemic solutions for upscaling of urgent ecosystem restoration for forest-related biodiversity and ecosystem services” (SUPERB). This four-year project is conducted by a consortium of 36 science and practice partners from all over Europe and led by the European Forest Institute. SUPERB is further supported by at least 90 regional to international associate project partners, all having strong ties to the management and protection of European forest landscapes (e.g. agricultural and nature protection ministries and government agencies from over 20 European countries, landowner associations, certifiers, funders, NGOs etc.). SUPERB aims to restore forest landscapes by creating an enabling environment for implementation of forest restoration and adaptation at different scales.

SUPERB will build on the vast but scattered practical knowledge and lessons learned of successful and non-successful forest restoration and adaptation activities and synthesise it for action. We will connect with restoration experts, including from LIFE projects and practitioners with decades of experiences with alternative management approaches. This practical knowledge will be underpinned by a compilation of highly relevant scientific knowledge including economic, governance, forest management, and climate change adaptation aspects of restoration. At the core of SUPERB, concrete restoration actions will be carried out in 12 large-scale demonstration areas, located in 13 different countries. These demo areas not only represent the diversity of stressors on European forests and the wide range of necessary restoration actions, but also consider entire socio-ecological systems including people’s manyfold needs for ecosystem goods and services.

Po Valley demo area in Italy (photo Georgio Vacchiano)
Po Valley demo area in Italy (photo: Georgio Vacchiano)

By taking a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach, we will translate all practical and scientific knowledge on successful restoration into restoration-support guidelines, recommendations, and tools that will be easily accessible on the stakeholder-targeted online Forest Ecosystem Restoration Gateway.

Further information:

The consortium of SUPERB consists of the following organizations:
Wageningen Research, Prospex Institute, Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg, Austrian Research Centre for Forests, Bangor University, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape, University of Copenhagen, National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment, Spanish National Institute for Agriculture and Food Research and Technology, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, Land Life Company, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Forest Sciences Center of Catalonia, University of Kent, Croatian Forest Research Institute, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, University of Florence, King’s College London, University of Milan, Bosgroep zuid, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Forest Research, University of Novi Sad, Institute of Lowland Forestry and Environment, Cesefor, University of Belgrade, University of Lancaster, Institut Européen de la Forêt Cultivée, Fundatia Conservation Carpathia, University of Molise, County Administrative Board of Västerbotten (V-J) for Vindelälven-Juhttátahkka UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Landesbetrieb Wald und Holz NRW, Alliance Forêts Bois, Parco Nord Milano, Junta de Castilla y León, Danish Nature Agency

SUPERB is funded by Horizon 2020 through Grant Agreement 101036849, and receives 20 Million Euro for the implementation period between 2021-2025.


Featured image: Gornje Podunavlje demo area in Serbia (photo: Zoran Galic)