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EFI News 1 - 2013

  • May 05, 2015

European forests have a special year. First, this year EFI is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and we believe it is not only a celebration for EFI member organisations and Member Countries, or for the Institute itself, but an opportunity for the whole European forest sector to bring the continent’s forests into discussions and to increase their visibility. The ‘EFI 20 Years Science and Policy Forum’ will celebrate two decades of European forest networking from 23–27 September in Nancy, France. We invite you all to share your views on ‘Our forests in the 21st century – ready for risks and opportunities’. The year closes with the European Forest Week from 9–13 December organised by various forest organisations in Europe. During this week, everyone is encouraged to hold activities to raise awareness and strengthen political commitment and action, in a effort to continue working towards sustainable forest management. One way of bringing European forests into discussions is through the ThinkForest forum. Just a few months ago, issues related to the sustainability criteria of forest biomass were debated at a ThinkForest event in the European Parliament. Two weeks later, the adaption of forests to climate change was in focus during a similar event. On both

occasions, the approach was to hear what science says about the issue, and to facilitate discussions between highlevel policy makers, such as members of the European Parliament, scientists and various stakeholders ranging from the forest industry to nature conservationists. Read more about the findings of the MOTIVE-project on page 3. Forests are present in our lives on a daily basis, even in the most urban settings. Forest-based products are around us and we use them daily. Many of us enjoy spending time in forests, and many also earn a living from them. With 3.5 million jobs in the European forest sector, there is good reason to celebrate the versatile forests of our continent every day, and go to the nearest forest to enjoy its atmosphere and nature. Lastly, EFI News joins in the celebrations for the EFI 20th anniversary with an updated look and content. Many features remain the same, but some new elements have been added. We hope you enjoy reading this issue and would appreciate your feedback at communications@ efi.int.

How do Forests Adapt to Climate Change?

Climate change is posing a major challenge to forestry across Europe. Recent research indicates that climate change will most likely exceed a 2 °C rise in mean global temperature by 2100 and without drastic policy change mean temperature may rise between 3 and 6 °C in Europe. These changing environmental conditions affect tree growth and productivity of forests. Moreover, natural disturbance regimes are changing with significant implications on forest dynamics. Past experiences regarding the local and site-specific suitability of species are no longer valid and this calls for an adaptation of present forest management strategies.

In the Boreal zone, forest productivity is generally expected to increase, but less severe winters with shorter intervals of frosthardened ground could make forests more vulnerable to wind damage. In the Atlantic (Temperate Oceanic) region, an increase in frequency or severity of Atlantic storms would cause augmented forest losses. In the Temperate Continental bioclimatic zone, the health of spruce forests may be negatively affected by an increase in aridity and become more vulnerable to damage from bark beetles, with other forest species becoming more prevalent as a result. In the Mediterranean zone, an increase in aridity and in the variability of precipitation could stress even the most drought-tolerant tree species and increase the risk from forest fires. The following articles highlight some of the findings of the recently concluded 4-year international MOTIVE project on the consequences of Climate Change for European forests and potential adaptive management strategies. They discuss important topics for forest adaptation, including: how the area of suitable climate for European tree species might shift in response to ongoing climate change, the main sources of damage to forests, and the timing of adaptive forest management. An article highlighting observed impacts of climate change in a Mediterranean forest, local adaptation techniques and barriers to adaptive management also forms part of this special issue.

The project MOdels for AdapTIVE forest Management (MOTIVE) was a large-scale integrated project in the 7 th Framework Programme of the EU. The project was coordinated by an EFI Associate Member, the Forest Research Institute of Baden- Württemberg (FVA, Freiburg). The scientific coordinator was Marc Hanewinkel (formerly with FVA, now based at the Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, also an EFI Associate Member). MOTIVE involved 20 partners from 14 European countries with a budget of 9 million euros.

Habitats for Tree Species Shift as Climate Changes

Climate is a major driver of plant and tree distribution. A changing climate is especially pertinent to long-lived plants, such as trees or shrubs, as their long life mean they are particularly vulnerable to rapid changes in climatic conditions. In addition, forest management typically encompasses many decades. This calls for a good understanding of the expected changes and their impacts on trees and forest ecosystems. As part of MOTIVE, downscaled modern climate data was used in order to assess how the areas of suitable climate for certain European tree species might shift in response to ongoing climate change. To do so, species distribution models (SDMs), which allow for mapping regions that share suitable habitat conditions (mainly climate) for a given species, were employed. The resulting maps illustrate the shift in habitat suitability but do not make any statement on how fast these shifts will occur. If we combine many tree species into a synthesized view of overall changes in broadleaf and needleleaf tree species, we find the following result (Figure 1): (1) the diversity of broadleaf tree species is projected to decrease in many Mediterranean and southern continental areas of eastern Europe, and is increasing in higher altitudes and latitudes; (2) the diversity of needleleaf tree species is projected to decrease at lower and increase at higher altitudes in the Mediterranean areas of Europe, and is increasing in many regions of the southern edge of Central Europe and in high latitudes; (3) the increase in needleleaf trees at the southern edge of Central Europe is likely due to the expansion of Mediterranean conifer species (e.g. Mediterranean pines – Pinus pinaster, P. pinea), while the increase of needleleaf trees in the North is due to a range expansion of boreal species such as the Norway spruce (Picea abies). Many of these projected changes may take hundreds, if not thousands of years to take place naturally through slow plant migration processes. This means that a tree species is likely to persist much longer in a location that becomes climatically unsuitable than mapped with SDM methods. However, this also means that the species will face climate conditions for which we have no current observation, and this results in increasingly higher risk that the species will be exposed to physiological (e.g. drought) or biological (e.g. pests) stress. Therefore, very careful management of tree species under such conditions is necessary.

 

Adaptive Management Options for Forest Owners

Across Europe climate change is projected to have significant long term impacts on growth and performance of many tree species and forest ecosystems. However, just how large and how severe the changes will be is subject to considerable uncertainty. Therefore, a crucial question is when to adjust management in regards to expected short and long-term changes.

If uncertainty about direction and the impact of climate change is very large, the decision maker has little basis for firm expectations. In this case, it may be relevant and favourable to simply wait and react to noticeable impacts. Alternatively, if impacts are small in terms of effects on growth, competition between species or other ecosystem aspects, it is likely that routine management actions like harvesting can be adjusted smoothly and gradually fitted to the changing forest state.

Options for the forest owner

The forest owner could take a more proactive approach when adapting decisions to forthcoming climate change. Apart from observing current developments and impacts, they should also assess likely future developments and impacts of climate change using various sources of information and observations from science, practice and policy debates. Thus, they would base their current decisions, not only on the observed status of the forest, but also on expectations about future climate change impacts and implications for forest management. If proactive managers make accurate forecasts and form well-founded expectations, they should perform as well as reactive managers. However, searching for and assessing information is costly, and expectations and forecasts may be imprecise, ill founded or biased. Thus, in some situations it is not obvious that much is gained from such an approach. In other cases, it is more likely to become a clear advantage. Forest owners may feel that the economic consequences of climate change impacts on forest health and production will not be dramatic for the next few decades. For this reason, they may be reluctant to engage in dramatic adaptation measures in forest management and more likely to favour reactive decision approaches. However, from society’s point of view, the potential consequences of climate change may be more severe. The reason is that the long-term provision of many ecosystem services like biodiversity conservation, recreational uses and water protection may be more sensitive to climate change. Therefore, it is wise for society to secure the collection and dissemination of novel and improved information on likely impacts and assess forest health and productivity continuously.

Mapping the Risk to European Forests

Damage to European forests is increasing with abiotic damage from wind and fire, and biotic damage from bark beetles. This rise in damage appears to primarily result from the growth in forest volumes, together with changes in climate and land management. In order to succeed with forest sustainability, we must be able to predict levels of risk now and into the future. Major damage events and outbreaks of pests and diseases can affect large areas, so many countries’ calculations need to be carried out over large spatial scales. However, modelling of risk to forests from different hazards at large scales presents serious challenges. In particular, there are requirements for detailed data on forest structure and site conditions, and models that are able to calculate the risk for the range of site types, forest species, forest management regimes and climate that occur.

To map wind damage risk across Europe for MOTIVE, we combined high-resolution wind climate data from the EU ENSEMBLES project, information on forest structure from the Synthetic European Forest Structure Database and the FAO soil map to assign soil type and rooting depth. These were used as inputs to the wind risk model ForestGALES, which calculates the critical wind required to damage a stand. When the critical wind speeds are combined with wind climate data it is possible to calculate the probability of damage for current and future climates. No model currently exists for predicting insect outbreak risk across Europe. Instead we applied a regression model developed for Austrian conditions at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences (BOKU) that predicts the chance of bark beetle infestation based on average annual temperature, total annual precipitation, stand age, stand density and the percentage of the host tree within a stand. This model was applied to the whole of Europe, using the Synthetic European Forest Structure Database and WorldClim data focussing on spruce trees. The resulting map gave the endemic risk of bark beetle infestation and corresponds well with observed areas of damage outbreak. For European-wide fire risk modelling, a lack of suitable methodology was identified. Current fire risk models cannot be extrapolated outside the regions they were developed for, or cover only the climatic risk and do not combine the risk due to the climate and state of the vegetation. We have shown that it is possible in a preliminary way to calculate the risk of wind damage and bark beetle attack across the whole of Europe at a 1km resolution, taking into account both the state of the forest and the present and future climate. For fire risk, this is not currently possible due to a lack of suitable methods. Future work should focus on extending these methods to more pest species, to add fire, and to fully validate the results.

Forest Management – Case in the Mediterranean Region

The Poblet Natural Site of National Interest (NSNI) is a protected natural area of 2400ha located in the Prades Mountains, Catalunya, Spain. As in many other parts of the Mediterranean, forest management activities have been abandoned due to low profitability. The main ecosystem services today are recreation, conservation and mushroom picking. Currently, the main management motivation is to maintain forest health and regeneration. The management of the forest is executed by a professional team of public forest managers and supported by a management commission of stakeholders and experts. There is a long tradition of forest research in the area, which enters in dialogue with forest management. Climate change in the region is revealing itself by rapid increase in aridity and more frequent extreme events such as droughts. Such changes will drastically impact forest dynamics, including the risk of forest fire. The level of these impacts and the adaptive capacity of forest ecosystems will affect the provision of relevant forest ecosystem services. Most tree species occurring in the area are typical Mediterranean and drought resistant, which means that they have low risk of vessel cavitation. Although, even Mediterranean species can suffer carbon starvation due to dry spells, as they need to consume their mobile carbon reserves to overcome such periods. If too recurrent, mobile carbon reserves cannot be replenished in time, with vitality loss as a consequence. This may be the case for Holm oak. Euro-Siberian species like Scots pine find some of their southernmost distribution area directly threatened by climate change. Scots pine has no possibility to migrate to higher elevations, given that it already occupies the highest zone of this geographically isolated mountainous area.

Financing Adaptive Management Pays Off

Simulations show that the current lack of management leads to a decrease in biomass production under climate change. The reason, is that the high stand density in combination with increased drought stress leads to increased competition and mortality. In general, managers are recommended to follow a more intensive management which reduces canopy density. The effect of this is a decrease of competition between trees, more water available per tree and better overall growth performance. In conclusion, the main limitation for adaptive forest management is the cost. Forest management operations are expensive, and income from the forest is very limited. Increasing wood prices would be beneficial, as would price increases for mushroom permits. In general, ways must be explored to finance adaptive management, considering the importance of payments for ecosystem services and other economic instruments to internalize forest ecosystem services

Establishing Opportunities

Harald Mauser started in his post as the Liaison Officer at the EFI Liaison office Brussels in February. He is the key person strengthening alliances with Brussels-based organisations, and in his position he identifies information needs and opportunities regarding policy-makers within the forest-sector

How did you got involved with EFI?

My involvement with EFI began awhile back when I attended the World Forestry Congress in Quebec, Canada in 2003 and met EFI Director Risto Päivinen with the idea of establishing regular meetings for the heads of national forest research institutes in Europe. Together with Konstantin von Teuffel we successfully implemented this idea. Based on this co-operation I was asked to chair the 2005 Annual Conference in Barcelona, Spain. It was the last Annual Conference for EFI in its old legal status. In 2008, I was appointed by the Council as member of the EFI Board which I resigned from last February.

What are the current hot topicsregarding forest issues in Brussels?

There are three overarching forest related policy issues under discussion that are closely linked: first, Legally Binding Agreement on Forests in Europe, second, the new EU Forest Strategy, and third, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), with its supporting measures for forestry within the Rural Development Program. EFI is involved in all of these discussions through different activities. Closely related to the implementation of CAP, a new European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability is under preparation. EFI is represented by the Director in the High Level Steering Board of this EIP, and I am acting as the Sherpa. A main challenge in the elaboration of the Strategic Implementation Plan of this EIP is the integration of forestry. That will enable forest research and practice to address innovation in forest management with activities co-funded within Horizon 2020 and the Rural Development Fund. These two programs will use the EIP planning as guidance for the supporting measures in the period 2014– 2020.

Another current activity is the preparation of the first work program of Horizon 2020. In close coordination with the European Technology Platform for the Forest- Based Sector (FTP), the road map for the contribution of FTP to the elaboration of the first work program of Horizon 2020 in DG Research was prepared.This contribution will be based on the recently launched FTP Strategic Research Agenda. The EFI network is preparing detailed descriptions for forest research topics.

What are your views on the future of the European Forest Policy and EFI’s role in this respect?

We have seen more attention on forests, their management and protection in a growing number of EU policy fields in recent years. This trend will continue, and there is a common understanding on the need for more coordination and cohesion regarding forest policy issues. There is a growing demand for support from science, which will encourage better evidence-based decision making. This need was repeatedly confirmed during my conversations at the European Parliament, and with the Commission. It was emphasized that EFI as an international research based organisation is a very credible source of objective information in this respect. The growing role of EFI’s “Policy Support“ and stronger coordination with “Research“, will allow EFI to better meet the demand of EU policies. There is now a window of opportunity to establish EFI as a highly accepted supporter of policy making at the European level, in addition to its acknowledged role in research.

How does your work benefit EFI member organisations specifically?

In the short term, the contributions of the Liaison Office in the preparation of Horizon 2020 and the EIP Agriculture will establish opportunities for EFI member organisations to run research and innovation projects in the years 2014–2020 with EU co-funding. The intensified contacts with several EU Directorates Generals will offer new possibilities for tenders on forest issues, for which EFI and its member organisations can apply. In the long term, raising the profile of EFI as a competent, reliable and effective partner in supporting European policy making and implementation will hopefully entail more interest by the EU and the member countries to open new lines of financing for the institute beyond the competitive funding approaches, which are dominating today.



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