Climate change can negatively impact the growth, productivity and vitality of forests. However, helping forests to thrive can reduce extreme weather events like forest fires and droughts and cut emissions.
The EU knows this and its EU Forest Strategy for 2030 published in July this year, is one of the flagship initiatives of the European Green Deal. The plan will help reach the EU’s biodiversity objectives and greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.
The team behind LIFE FORECCAsT is also playing its part. They helped forest managers in France’s Haut-Languedoc Regional Nature Park put in place climate change adaptation strategies. We spoke with Raphaël Bec from this LIFE award-winning project to find out more.
How did LIFE FORECCAsT start?
It all started more than ten years ago. We noticed that forest dieback was increasing in the park. Dieback happens when trees are weakened or killed by pathogens, parasites, or extreme weather events like drought. We wanted to explore the reasons for this, so we applied for LIFE funding and were successful.
What did you do?
There were three main activities:
We firstly developed various models on how trees respond to drought. We specifically looked at how common droughts were - an essential parameter for tree weakness. Based on this information, we developed a mobile application that could be used by forest owners and forest managers to provide them with information on the risks to their trees.
We also came up with practical solutions to help forests at risk of dying. These included new planting techniques which involved mixing tree species. Combining species improves the water balance for an entire forest and makes the trees more resilient.
We introduced new management practices for forest stands to reduce their risks in severe weather. For example, we tested the right time and the correct density for tree thinning. This can strengthen trees so that they can endure climate change and regenerate well.
What are you most proud of?
Around 300 people across France now use the mobile app. We thought it would only be used locally, but interest has come from further afield.
I’m also proud of the 25 sites that tested climate-resilient tree species so that foresters and others could follow the same approach.
And I’m glad that we reached out to the community by holding courses in schools and open days, presenting our work.
Tell us about winning the LIFE Award for Climate Action.
We are thrilled because it shows that the issue we are trying to tackle is essential for the forest community and the European Commission. After four years, it was satisfying to be recognised for our work.
What’s coming up?
We will continue to update the app with more models on different species, and we want to expand its reach across Europe. Organisations in Belgium, Italy and Slovenia have already shown an interest in using it. One of our team members should start working with some EU research teams to make this happen.
We are also training people like foresters, teachers and other interested parties on how to use the app properly.
Image: LIFE15 CCA/FR/000021/Raphaël Bec/CRPF Occitanie. All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.
- 13 Oktober 2021