New video: Enhancing EU’s carbon sinks through sustainable forest management

Are forests solutions or victims in the battle against climate change? Increasing forests’ carbon sinks while keeping them healthy and resilient can be a difficult balancing act, especially since local needs and expectations also have to be considered.

In the INFORMA project, we are looking into the best science-based approaches to Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) for climate mitigation in the context of Europe’s five main forest bioregions. INFORMA’s new introduction video presents our main lines of research and how they will transform into concrete SFM guidelines that are applicable across 94% of Europe’s forests.

Watch the full video:

Forest fires near Valencia: “It’s not enough to control fires – we need prevention through Sustainable Forest Management”, says INFORMA coordinator

After the large forest fires that affected Begís (Alt Palancia) in the Region of Valencia, Spain, last September, another fire of great proportions already burned more than 4.000 hectares of forest in the province of Castellón since it broke out on Thursday last week.

In an interview with local media broadcaster À Punt, INFORMA’s coordinator and professor at the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV) José Vicente Oliver highlighted the importance of Sustainable Forest Management to prevent forest fires. “We were warning that the area had a high risk of forest fire and, unfortunately, the forecast was fulfilled”, he said.

Large quantities of biomass such as dead trees and branches accumulated in forests in the interior districts of Castellón after heavy snowfalls in 2017. The fact that they remain without management has contributed to fueling and amplifying last week’s fires.

Oliver warned that once forest fires start to spread, they might be impossible to control, particularly under unstable wind conditions. However, he stressed that such fires can be avoided through investments in Sustainable Forest Management for fire prevention.

“If we put all our efforts into fire brigades and extinguishing fires but not in their prevention, it is difficult to act in an efficient manner, that is sustained through time. And it is hard to create a virtuous cycle where forest and agricultural management also benefit our communities”.

Read a summary of the interview or watch the video below (in Spanish).

Harnessing the full potential of Sustainable Forest Management in carbon schemes: An interview with I4CE’s Julia Grimault

Planting new trees is not the only way to offset carbon emissions. Managing existing forests to absorb more CO2 through Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) also holds great potential that has partially been recognised by some carbon certification schemes. Still, in practice, the real carbon sequestration capacity of SFM is far from being reflected by most carbon standards due to various technical difficulties – which the INFORMA project aims to help overcome.

The project’s carbon accounting expert Julia Grimault and her team at the France-based Institute for Climate Economics are gathering insights from research and practice on how to make SFM fully count towards carbon credits. Their goal is to improve current standards, support stakeholders working in the field to fund more climate-friendly forest management, and inform policy decisions, for instance, by the European Commission on its new carbon certification framework for removals.

Interested in Julia’s work? Then watch our video interview or read it below to learn about her research in detail!

How can carbon credits foster more sustainable forestry practices?

The objective of carbon crediting is to direct funding, possibly new types of funding, towards climate-compatible practices. There are two types of benefits: first, you can try and get funding that is currently not going towards forestry or other sectors that might also need it – agriculture, for example. Then you make sure that the funding is brought on the condition that it has an actual benefit for the climate. This can happen through, for instance, afforestation, reforestation, improved management, and forest restoration after a climatic event. And you make sure that the use of that funding is efficient.

Talking about a concrete situation: in many European countries, forest owners have been affected by bark beetle attacks, so they clear-cut the forests and now need to plan something new. Would the use of carbon schemes make sense in this situation?

It depends on which type of schemes are implemented. In France, this is typically one of the practices and actions that are eligible. Because often forest owners cut the trees that have been impacted but don’t necessarily regrow any forests because of cost issues and, in some cases, disappointment. Carbon certification then helps to trigger forest restoration. This can also be done with public funding for countries which have a mechanism in place. In France, we have a bit of both. I’m not going to get much into details on how this is articulated but this is typically one of the possibilities to help trigger an action that otherwise we believe would not have necessarily been done.

Can elaborate on how we can bring together Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) and carbon schemes in the INFORMA project? What is your approach?

There are two types of difficulties with SFM. The first one is also linked to all types of forestry projects. It is the uncertainty that you have when measuring carbon impact. Because forests are living things, you have the uncertainty of measurement and non-permanence risk – the risk that the carbon is reemitted at some point to the atmosphere.

Also with Sustainable Forest Management, it is sometimes harder to quantify and evaluate carbon benefits. For afforestation it is easy. You have nothing and then something. Well, not necessarily nothing but it’s easier to quantify. For SFM you don’t always have the tools to measure what impact this or that forest practices will actually have on the carbon stocks and fluxes. We hope that the INFORMA project will help provide the tools to have better and more precise measurements of different types of stands and forests. That way we can better quantify the carbon impact of different practices on the different carbon compartments, such as living biomass, and soils, for example, that we don’t really know how to take into account currently.

Forest management is already included in some of the existing carbon schemes but not necessarily all types of practices. So we hope that the project is going to help provide the tools to either integrate more practices or be more precise in the measurements. But still keeping in mind that the more precise you get, usually the most costly it often gets too. We have to find the balance between precision, cost and being as robust as we can be. At the same time, still provide tools that are accessible and easily usable by stakeholders who are not carbon experts but people working in the field who still need to get comfortable with those tools.

What are you exactly planning to do to improve the measurements and how will you share your knowledge with the stakeholders you want to engage?

First, we want to identify what is already considered in existing carbon schemes. A lot of methodologies and schemes already exist and are still being developed. So first we want to see what is missing in those schemes and what is done properly. And then be able to spot shortcomings and what improvements the project can bring. They could be, for instance, what we call conceptual improvements, maybe for forest compartments that are not taken into account such as soils or harvested wood products that could be better integrated. Or it could be the use of new tools or apps, for instance, to help forest stakeholders and owners monitor carbon more easily and precisely.

Then we are going to present this to the different stakeholders like project developers, intermediaries, buyers and funders of these projects to see what comes out of it: if the tools that we propose actually could be implemented properly and if they are not too costly. We are also going to provide just before that a cost-efficiency analysis, trying to keep in mind this balance between precision and something usable. The end game of all this is to provide overall recommendations to the existing carbon schemes and to the European Commission, which is developing a new carbon certification framework for removals at the EU level.

How to provide EU-level recommendations if carbon schemes are sometimes also based on national laws?

There are some themes that are going to be quite cross-cutting. For example, the cost efficiency of some tools, the economic challenges of additionality, and maybe conceptual challenges such as non-permanence. These are problems that are faced more or less everywhere in Europe. Some recommendations can apply quite widely and others would have to be specific for geographic regions and types of countries. We will find out throughout the project!

Sustainable Forest Management as an effective tool to fight the climate emergency in rural societies

The 4th Forestry Congress of the Valencian Region, held on 10-11 November in Requena (Valencia, Spain), brought together more than 400 professionals and scientists from the sector. The congress focused on the role of forest management as part of the solution to the existing territorial imbalance between urban and rural areas in many Mediterranean regions and, specifically, in the Valencian Region.

The Polytechnic University of Valencia presented INFORMA at the event and discussed how Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) can increase the attractiveness of rural areas, putting them on an equal level with urban areas.

In Spain, a mass rural exodus led to depopulation and the abandonment of agroforestry activity in many inland and mountain areas in the 1960s and 70s. Although stopping rural exodus is difficult at the moment, it is possible to reverse the current inequalities that continue to cause depopulation.

In the context of the foreseeable crises resulting from the climate emergency and the changing geopolitical situation, a return to rural areas is predicted for the near future. The conditions must be created for such a return in a fair and orderly manner”, said José-Vicente Oliver, INFORMA Project Coordinator at the Polytechnic University of Valencia.

Forest management, with the creation of value chains based on it (wood and derived products, bioenergy, cork, high-quality food products) is a basic tool for creating an economy in the territory, structuring rural societies and anticipating risks associated with the current situation, turning them into opportunities. The European INFORMA project will improve SFM in the different forest ecosystems in the EU to embed climate change adaptation and mitigation into management models while also contributing to rural development and to the welfare of people living and working in forest areas“, added Oliver.

Follow us on social media!

Not following us on Twitter and LinkedIn yet?

Don’t miss any updates: click the buttons below to connect with INFORMA on social media!

Press release: UPV coordinates major European research project to improve sustainable forest management

  • The goal of the INFORMA project is to develop and implement best sustainable forest management practices in the five most representative biogeographical regions across Europe
  • In addition, it will contribute directly with its results to the development of the European Forest Strategy 2030

Valencia, 19th October 2022 – Climate change has driven countries and organisations around the world to search for solutions to help mitigate or prevent its effects. While forests are suffering, they are also crucial to reducing emissions, as they are the most important earth’s carbon sinks: they sequester carbon by capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and transforming it into biomass.

However, this process is threatened by the increase in natural disasters, now more frequent due to the current climate emergency. In this context, the Information and Communication Technologies against Climate Change (ICTvsCC) group of the ITACA institute of the UPV (Polytechnic University of Valencia) is coordinating INFORMA, the major European forestry research project in the new Horizon Europe programme to improve forest management in this context.

The project, which has a total budget of €5.3 million and 14 partners from 8 EU countries, has a duration of four years. Its main objective is to develop and implement best sustainable forest management practices in the five most representative biogeographical regions across Europe (Atlantic, Mediterranean, Continental, Alpine and Boreal) and under future climate change scenarios, in order to preserve carbon sinks and promote carbon sequestration, while conserving their biodiversity and renewable natural resources.

In addition, INFORMA also aims to contribute with scientific rigor to the methodologies of quantification, monitoring, review and verification of existing carbon offset market instruments in Europe, especially in sustainable forest management actions in Mediterranean ecosystems. In Spain, carbon compensation mechanisms are the main tool for payment for environmental services today, as they already have demand (sectors and companies with diffuse emissions), supply (public and private forest owners) and regulatory mechanisms, such as the Carbon Footprint Registry of the Spanish Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge.

“In our country, the main threat to the preservation of ecosystems, but also of carbon stocks, is forest fires, as has become evident after the fires that occurred this summer in the Valencian Region. This type of disturbance is the main field of research in the pilot areas in the Mediterranean region, where the interactions between the current state of the forest, its sustainable management alternatives and the climate will be analysed. In this way, the project will allow the implementation of best practices for adaptive management to climate change in the different types of Mediterranean forest ecosystems, but also the mitigation by forest bioeconomy, i.e. the optimisation of carbon sequestration in managed forests and the industrial transformation and consumption of the main forest products (wood, cork, biomass, resins, etc.) as substitutes for materials and products coming from fossil or non-renewable sources with a high impact on greenhouse gas emissions” says José-Vicente Oliver, director of the ICTvsCC-ITACA group at the UPV and general coordinator of the INFORMA project.

Moreover, the project will contribute directly with its results to the development of the European Forestry Strategy 2030, currently being negotiated by the EU Commission, as well as to the MOSAIC Strategy of the General Directorate of Forest Fire Prevention of the Regional Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development, Climate Emergency and Ecological Transition of the Valencian Regional Government (GV) and the recently announced Forestry Cooperation Fund by the Presidency of the GV for the coming years, whose objectives are the prevention and mitigation of the effects of forest fires on forest ecosystems and society, through the sustainable integrated management of agroforestry territory.

Author: Luis Zurano

+34 647 422 347