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.
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.
You are welcome to register for specific sessions of interest.
SUPERB is a Horizon 2020 research and innovation project launched by the Europe Commission and led by the EFI.
The SUPERB Restoration Project Festival will be the opportunity for European forest restoration specialists to come together to:
Contribute to forging a common pool of effective forest restoration solutions and making them available across Europe.
Hear from innovative approaches and initiatives in this field.
Join a growing network for knowledge sharing and cooperation for forest restoration practitioners that is being built by SUPERB.
During the event, you will make your input together with representatives of around 40 other European forest restoration initiatives. Most of the festival’s sessions are hybrid, and the highlights include:
At the end of October 2018, tropical storm Vaia brought heavy rains and winds of up to 200 km/h to Northern Italy, killing 37 people and unleashing damage estimated at almost 5 billion euros. Vaia also affected parts of France, Croatia, Austria, and Switzerland, but Italy sustained the worst forestry destruction in its recent history, with more than 14 million trees felled. The Asiago Oltre Vaia project was an initiative of the Municipality of Asiago – with the support of numerous entities such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Italia, Treedom, and the University of Padua – designed to draw lessons from the catastrophe to create more resistant and resilient forests for the future.
Storm Vaia destroyed about 2,300 hectares of woods on the Asiago Plateau, north of Vicenza in the Veneto region. This was the second huge destruction of the region’s forestry heritage after that of the First World War, which wiped out almost 70 per cent of the forests in the area. After the war, the forests of the Asiago Plateau were reconstituted using species with high economic value, such as spruce, to drive economic recovery of the affected areas. That reforestation was in part the reason for Storm Vaia’s impact.
“The wind arrived up here and found woods all of the same species and age,” explained Marco Pellegrini, forestry technician in charge of the Asiago Oltre Vaia project. “The intense rains of the previous days then loosened the ground. It was like bowling; the trees fell like skittles.”
Diego Rigoni, councilor for forestry heritage of the Municipality of Asiago at the time of the storm, agreed. “For the local community it was a very hard blow. Our lives have always been inextricably linked with those of our forests. In the days following the storm the surrounding area resembled the scenario of death and destruction left by the Great War. For many of us it was a very bad return to the past.”
At the same time, the woods, weakened by the storm, were under attack by an insect. The spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus) feeds and breeds under the bark of trees, which results in damage from drying out. In some areas, the consequences of this little insect were even worse than those of Vaia.
“We noticed trees were drying in groups, and those patches were spreading. Hot, dry summers have led to an uncontrolled proliferation of the bark beetle,” said Marco Pellegrini.
Initiatives to plant new trees began as soon as the woods were cleared of trunks and branches. The Asiago Oltre Vaia project aimed to create more resistant and resilient forests by planting 6,000 seedlings in clusters of eight different species: conifers such as red and white fir and larch, and broad-leaved trees such as beech, birch, willow, whitebeam and European rowan.
“Vaia taught us that greater variability in species and age of trees can contribute not only to minimizing the effects of extreme weather phenomena, but also can increase biodiversity. The flowers and berries produced by the species we planted are in fact food for numerous animals, which can return to colonize these areas,” Marco Pellegrini said. This kind of information is also explained on information boards at the planting sites.
“From a scientific point of view, we are monitoring the progress of the plantings with the contribution of the University of Padua, and testing different solutions,” he added. These include the use of FSC-certified cardboard shelters to protect young plants. “Classic plastic tubes would have meant further burdening areas that suffered from Vaia’s effects with polluting material from the tubes.” The cardboard protection did not withstand the heavy snowfalls of the winter of 2020, but, said Marco Pellegrini, “we still believe that they are a much better ecological solution.”
Asiago Oltre Vaia is the first study of this kind in Italy, a real open-air laboratory to try to envisage the forests that will populate these areas in 100 or 150 years, and it continues to attract not only technicians but also students and tourists.
“We don’t have a magic wand,” concludes project technician Marco Pellegrini. “We can only proceed by trial and error, using science and our knowledge of forest management. The rest is up to nature, which is more patient than people.”
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.
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.
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)
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”
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.
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/