How can we improve the management of our forests to make them more resilient to impacts of climate change and the increased risk of disturbances? What can we do to first predict and then adapt to change? How can we enhance biodiversity in our forests while still provide wood for the bioeconomy? What can we learn from both science and best-practice examples from all over Europe? How do we want our forests to look like in 60 years from now?
To find answers to these questions is the main concern of the European Network Integrate. In the 7th Network meeting, taking place from 27th – 29th October 2021 Neuchâtel, Switzerland, altogether 44 participants from 14 European countries and the European Commission discussed both challenges and guiding principles for the future of our European forests.
The meeting was jointly organized by Christoph Dürr from the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) as the current Integrate Network Chair, EFI as the Integrate Secretariat, and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL).
Following introductory words by Pierre Alfter (Head of Section Forests of Service of Wildlife, Forests and Nature Canton of Neuchâtel) and Michael Reinhard (Head of Forest Division, FOEN), impulse presentations were given by Andreas Rigling and Frank Krumm from WSL (presentation by Rigling&Krumm ), Adam Felton from Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SLU (presentation by Felton) and Marc Hanewinkel from Freiburg University (presentation by Hanewinkel). The inputs focused on today’s challenges for forestry in Europe, adaptation to climate change impacts with focus on biodiversity conservation as well as an economic perspective. Before taking off on a field trip to the nearby Bourdy forest, Claudio de Sassi from FOEN introduced us to biodiversity conservation and sustainable forest use in Switzerland (presentation by de Sassi). Field trips are a central component of all Integrate meetings as they especially allow for exchange, discussions, as well as “reality checks” with forest and nature conservation managers. Pascal Junod from the Forest Service Neuchâtel introduced us to local approaches to integrate biodiversity into forest management (presentation by Junod). He also elaborated on how to move towards more climate resilient forests of the future.
To complement the first day, country members of the European Integrate Network shared insights on national strategies for best preparing forests to impacts of climate change and biodiversity decline. In this framework, the group was introduced to the strategies of Austria (presentation by Georg Frank), Denmark (Mogens Krog), Italy (presentation by Silvia Ferlazzo), Luxembourg (Michel Leytem), the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany (Klaus Striepen), Portugal (presentation by Conceição Ferreira) and Switzerland (presentation by Robert Jenni).
The second day was opened with reflections from the director of FOEN Katrin Schneeberger (presentation by Schneeberger) and the director of WSL Beate Jessel (presentation by Jessel) on climate change impacts on forests, the conservation of biodiversity and the importance of ensuring the provision of ecosystem services for society. Marco Onida from DG Environment then presented the current policy developments in the EU with emphasis on the EU forest strategy and related strategies and gave insights on the current state of the Forest Information System for Europe (presentation by Onida). His presentation was followed by a lively discussion on forest conservation targets, forest resilience, the role of integrative forest management approaches in supporting the EU forest strategy goals and the need for comprehensive data and information on Europe’s forests. Further input on the science-policy interface was shared by Georg Winkel from EFI (presentation by Winkel), while Thomas Haussmann from ForestEurope presented on the Work Programme of the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (presentation by Haussmann).
A highly relevant part of the second day were discussions on the future orientation and funding of the Integrate Network, which is regarded by its members being of strategic importance for both European policy presented by Steven Dörr from the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (presentation on the Multi-Donor-Trust Fund approach) as well as practice cooperation on integrative forest management approaches (presentation on the European Integrate Marteloscope Network). The Secretariat collected all valuable feedback provided by the Integrate members which will serve as input to further elaborating the future focus and work of the Network.
Following these strategic discussions, Christoph Dürr then handed over the chairmanship of the Integrate Network to Spain after almost 2 years of engaging with the network members in a virtual environment due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Christoph was sincerely appreciated by all Integrate Policy Network members for his excellent work, his professionalism and dedication to chair the Network especially in such difficult times. In the name of the new chair Leopoldo Rojo Serrano (Ministerio para la Transición Ecológica y el Reto Demográfico), Daniel Roures Rego informed that Spain is planning to promote the use of the Integrate marteloscope Network to engage with environmental, educational and research institutions. They will also aim at increasing the awareness of opportunities related to the integration of nature conservation in forest management. Further emphasis will be put on strengthening the involvement and interaction with the nature and biodiversity conservation sector. The day was concluded by two presentations on balancing ecosystem services in forests. Matthew Betts from Oregon State University introduced the so-called triad management, while Thimothy Thrippleton from WSL presented his work on modelling the development of future ecosystem services in the region of Davos (presentation by Thrippleton).
On the final day, selected case studies from France, Norway (presentation by Gro Kampp Hansen), Germany (presentation by Uli Herkle) and Italy (presentation by Alessandra Bottero) published in the oForest book “How to balance forestry and biodiversity conservation – a view across Europe” were revisited. Alexander Lucian Curtu and Tudor Stăncioiu (University of Brasov) provided an additional perspective on integrated forest management in Romania (presentation by Curtu& Stăncioiu). Furthermore, Tobias Schulz (WSL) presented an approach on how to conduct a comparative study incorporating the case studies of the oForest book (presentation by Schulz), while Thibault Lachat (Bern School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences) highlighted the potentials of allowing for disturbances in integrated forest management (presentation by Lachat).
The participants very much appreciated the in-person meeting of the Integrate Network in Neuchâtel including presentations, fields trips, possibilities to exchange and discuss in coffee breaks and getting together for evening social events. All these activities were dearly missed during the past one and a half years in a still ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Finally, the generous gift by Christoph Dürr to all participants in the form of Swiss cheese was complemented by the memorable note in the workshop bag materials stating “do not forget to take your cheese”!