Preventing megafires and land abandonment in the Mediterranean: INFORMA’s case study in the Segre-Rialb basin

The combination of climate change and land abandonment is creating the perfect conditions for mega forest fires in the Mediterranean. Higher temperatures, erratic rainfall and longer droughts are becoming increasingly commonplace, as well as claims that megafires “are here to stay”. Still, not all hope is lost. Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) can help prevent fire disasters by reducing the amount of flammable biomass that accumulates in forests, among other adaptation measures.

The INFORMA case study in the Segre-Rialb basin, Spain, is an example of an area that has suffered decades of continuous rural exodus and the decurrent lack of forest management. There, the project will equip forest practitioners with insights on how to adapt to increased climate variability while ensuring the provision of ecosystem services such as water quality and quantity, wood and non-wood forest products, recreation, and biodiversity conservation.

The Segre-Rialb basin area comprises 35,000 hectares covering the six municipalities affected by the construction of the Rialb water reservoir in the 1990s: La Baronia del Rialb, Bassella, Oliana, Peramola, Ponts, and Tiurana.  Continuous rural exodus led to a significant decrease in the local population during the past century. For instance, the population of La Baronia de Rialb decreased from 1.244 to 835 inhabitants between 1900-1950 and currently amounts to no more than 229 inhabitants.

As in other Mediterranean countries, rural abandonment ensued a forest transition in the last sixty years. Depopulation, associated with decreasing agricultural activities, led to land abandonment, which induced land use change in former fields which naturally evolved into new forests.

The water reservoir of Rialb is the second largest and newest water reservoir in Catalonia. It was built in 1992 and caused the submersion of the lowest and most fertile pieces of land in the valley. Eventually inaugurated in 2000, the reservoir provides water to 80 municipalities. In 2008, the Consortium Segre-Rialb was created to coordinate economic development and tourism promotion in the six municipalities. Thanks to the touristic appeal of the water reservoir, the forested landscape aesthetics and opportunities for hiking and mushroom picking, tourism is now an important source of income in the area. For instance, La Baronia de Rialb counts the highest number of rural tourism homes in Catalonia, with over 150 rural homes.

The main tree species in the case study area are black pine (Pinus nigra), holm oak (Quercus ilex), and Portuguese oak (Quercus faginea) and forests are mainly privately owned. While the most common management objective is wood production, truffles are also a good source of income for forest owners. Forestry is limited because it is considered a non-profitable activity due to the complex topography of the area and the typical low productivity of Mediterranean forests, which was further reduced by regular heavy tree thinnings or after the occurrence of wildfires.

Thirty-six per cent of the total private forest lands are under a forest management plan, in accordance with the average for Catalonia, where forest management plans are voluntary, but this figure varies considerably between the six municipalities. The highest percentage of private forests under a management plan occurs in La Baronia de Rialb (47%), due to an increase in truffle production in the municipality over the last decade.

Observations regarding non-managed forest areas indicate that they may increase the risks of large forest fires, diseases, and mortality during drought episodes, which are only expected to be exacerbated by climate change. While tree cover in the basins is essential to water quality, increasing vegetation cover impacts the amount and efficiency of water use by forests, potentially decreasing water availability for humans.

Wood production is usually the only objective for private forest owners although fire prevention measures are more and more being taken into account. The Catalan Government has recognised the threat of more extreme fires and droughts and is promoting and pushing for more sustainable forest management practices. Hence, the government is providing tools (i.e. maps with priority areas) and incentives for private forest owners to engage in forest management in strategic locations, mainly for fire prevention. Direct investments in private properties for fire prevention are also being made. In addition, research is being conducted to identify the most promising locations for water production.

Management alternatives to the current approaches foresee an increased integration of biodiversity conservation within managed forests as well as the improvement of water management. For contributing to forests as a carbon sink, enrichment plantations are also considered. They seek to introduce or increase the proportion of one or more species into the pre-existent forest. The overall aim is to increase the complexity of forest composition and structure, thus improving the resilience of forests to disturbances and taking advantage of the productive potential of the most favourable micro-sites (e.g. valley floors, ditches, affixed areas). Besides this, holm oak is planted for truffle production on former agricultural lands.

The INFORMA case study in the Segre-Rialb basin is led by CREAF (Ecological and Forestry Applications Research Centre) and Catalonia’s Forest Ownership Centre.

Looking into the past and future of Flanders’ ancient woodlands: the Woods of Brabant

Forest management is under continuous evolution in Flandres’ Woods of Brabant. These multifunctional woodlands of high conservation value are home to important species such as the honey buzzard and the middle-spotted woodpecker, while also providing a source of wood and recreational sites for the publicSustainable forest management plays a crucial role in balancing ecological, societal and economic priorities, but is becoming more challenging as climate change increases the occurrence of windstorms, drought, pests and diseases.

INFORMA’s mission in the area is to propose management options that cater for different needs, expectations and pressures in future climate scenarios. Read on to find more about our case study in Belgium!

Among the most beautiful and oldest forests in Belgium, the Woods of Brabant (Brabantse Wouden) are characterised by more than 10,000 hectares of Atlantic and Subatlantic forest, abundant in oak and beech trees, with an admixture of maples and pines. The larger areas of Meerdaal, Halle and Sonian forests alternate with smaller forest patches, open fields and urban areas, creating a mosaic in the landscape.

The forests are partly under strict protection (about 600 ha of strict reserves plus smaller set-aside patches), while other sections are managed for multiple purposes. In the managed areas, small-scale close-to-nature management is the rule, but patches with more intensive management, mostly for the conversion of conifer to broadleaved forest, are also present. The management aims to ensure that the woods retain their beauty, ecological functionality, and wood production capacity in times of climate change. In order to do  so, management practices are adapting to account for more frequent windstorms, drought, pests, and diseases.

All of the forests in the Woods of Brabant have a high natural value: They are ancient woodland sites with rich fauna and flora. The term “ancient woodlands” refers to the fact that they have been permanently forested, at least since their oldest topographic map of 1770, but most probably since the early Middle Age, a reason why they are all included in the Natura 2000 network of European protected areas.

As currently the woodlands are located within a highly urbanised landscape, recreation plays an important role in these forests, receiving over 2 million visitors per year. Management planning and infrastructure therefore need to cater for this high recreational pressure.

Satellite view of the Brabantse Wouden. In white, from left to right: Hallerbos, Sonian, and Meerdaal-Heverlee forests, surrounded by dense urban infrastructure and intensive agriculture in their immediate surroundings. Source: Google Maps.

Forest management history and practice

The forests of Hallerbos, Meerdaal, and Sonian Forest are all public forests, managed by the regional forest management service. They are shaped by many centuries of intensive but sustainable forest management, interspaced with periods of instability and plundering.

The Hallerbos and Meerdaal forests were traditionally managed as mixed coppice-with-standards forests, dominated by oak. The Meerdaal forest was gradually transformed into a high forest over the last century, mainly of oak and beech, with many of the old oaks still preserved and reaching the age of 200-250 years. Hallerbos was heavily impacted by fellings during the First World War and completely replanted with stands of beech and oak in the 1920s. On sandy outcrops, stands of pine and larch were planted in both forests.

The Sonian forest has a long tradition as a high forest, mainly of beech. The forest has been renowned for its high-quality beech trees. Over the last 150 years, managers have been reluctant to perform final harvesting due to visitor protests and political pressure. This explains the high density of old and impressive trees. While the even-aged structure was long considered a problem from a silvicultural point of view, the old beech stands are now seen as recreational and ecological assets of the forest.

Over the last decades, these forests were mainly managed through selective high thinnings. Final harvest was mainly done in small group cuttings. In the conifer stands, some larger final fellings were performed. Also, some larger fellings were done in beech stands both in the Meerdaal and Sonian forests, in both cases because of the conversion of the stands to other dominant tree species (e.g. oak and lime) in order to enhance the diversification of the forest.

A forest stand in Tranendal, Hallerbos. When bluebells are flowering, large numbers of visitors from far and wide come to see this natural spectacle. Source:

Challenges for conservation and recreation

Counting among the richest and most valuable oak and beech forests in Flanders, the Woods of Brabant harbour a rich typical fauna and flora of Atlantic beech and oak forests. The sites are important habitats for species such as the honey buzzard, middle-spotted and black woodpeckers and bats, while the stag beetle has some of its last populations in Flanders in the edges of these forests.

Apart from the legal protection under the Natura 2000 network, there is also a strong commitment to nature conservation in their management planning. Strict reserves and smaller set-asides have been designated to protect a representative network of the oldest stands in the forest, and within the managed stands, efforts are made to conserve habitat trees, old trees, and increase the amount of deadwood. This already resulted in the return of species like the middle-spotted woodpecker. The reserves within the Sonian Forest form part of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and other parts of Europe”.

Important challenges to the conservation efforts are the strong fragmentation of the forests, surrounded by intensive agriculture and infrastructure (e.g. roads, railways, and built-up areas), and related atmospheric deposition. These depositions have diminished over the last decades, resulting in a slow but gradual recovery of the natural vegetation.

Another challenge for forest managers is pressure from the public. These forests have very high visitor numbers, coming from the close by cities. They need to be catered for, and streamlined, by providing parking areas, hiking, and biking trails etc. This public also became more empowered and informed, so sometimes also criticises the management of the forest, even up to challenging certain harvests in court. To prevent conflicts with the public, forest management avoids interventions with strong ‘visual’ impact, such as large final fellings and organises public hearings and excursions to explain the management approach.

INFORMA contributions to the management of Brabantse Wouden

INFORMA’s research activities in the area are led by two institutions: the Research Institute Nature and Forest (INBO) and KU Leuven.

INFORMA’s activities will contribute to the sustainable management of these forests in several ways. First of all, a better understanding will be gained about the differences between managed and unmanaged forest stands in terms of carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation and other ecosystem services. Second, new modeling tools will become available to monitor and predict the ecosystem services flow to be expected from these forests in times of climate change. And third, new cost-efficient monitoring tools will be developed to monitor and possibly certify  the carbon sequestration in these forests, as an important contribution to climate mitigation.

Have your say! Answer our survey “Forest Managers’ Opinions on Climate Impacts and Ecosystem Services Supply”

Are you a forest practitioner? If so, we want to hear from you! Please answer our survey on the changing conditions of forest management and let us know your views and preferences regarding climate adaptation and mitigation measures.

The results will provide qualitative data to inform our models and new forest management scenarios based on stakeholder expectations and perceptions. By answering the questionnaire, you will help us make the voices of forest practitioners heard and create forest management recommendations that are tailored to practical needs.

The survey takes 20-30 minutes to answer and is aimed at forest owners, managers, administrators, consultants, contractors, among other forest practitioners. It is available in six languages:

1. English

2. Dutch

3. German

4. Spanish

5. French

6. Finnish

The survey is coordinated by INFORMA partner University of Suceava, and all collected data will be treated according to the EU General Data Protection Regulation (2016/679, GDPR).

EU Agri Interview: How can we make sure forestry research has an impact on the ground?

At the 2023 EU AgriResearch Conference, INFORMA researchers Celia Yagüe (Polytechnic University of Valencia) and Jonas Simons (KU Leuven) shared their take on impactful sustainable forest management research and practices during an interview with the EU Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development (EU Agri). Read the interview transcript or watch the video below to hear their views!

What does your research project do?

Celia Yagüe: The project is integrated by 14 partners from 8 countries all across Europe and the main objective is to increase the science-based knowledge of sustainable forest management practices for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

How can #AgriResearch help farmers, foresters and rural communities?

Jonas Simons: It’s mainly about making sure that knowledge is shared, that forest managers actually know what the consequences are of the actions they are taking and which options there are in management.

How can we make sure research has an impact on the ground?

Celia Yagüe: In INFORMA, one of the main pillars is to involve all stakeholders, not only during the proposal phase but also during the research phase. So we will do many workshops for gathering their perceptions and organise training sites in our five study areas. We will also develop practical guidelines for sustainable forest management adapted to the five regions that we are studying.

In a sentence: what do we need to make agriculture more resilient and sustainable?

Jonas Simons: In our case it’s about forestry. Knowledge sharing is extremely important, and more research is extremely important as it is a very complex issue. But besides this, communication is also very important to get information to the foresters, where it is most useful.

Celia Yagüe: Last but not least, I think it is important we receive funding and public investment for forest managers and owners to put into practice all the research that we have been doing during the life cycle of the project. 

New paper: Uncovering patterns of association between broadleaf species in Romania

What can ecological patterns of tree species distribution, such as the association between ash and linden, tell us about relationships between trees, their functions and their environment? The topic is investigated in a recent paper published by INFORMA researcher Ciprian Palaghianu, from the University of Suceava, in co-authorship with Cosmin Cosofret, from the same institution. Published in Forests MDPI, the study explores co-occurrence patterns of broadleaf species using three methods and compares their results.

Access the publication “Patterns of Forest Species Association in a Broadleaf Forest in Romania”.

Photo: Dmitry Bukhantsov/Unsplash

New paper: The effects of silvicultural treatments on Aleppo pine, a key species in times of climate change

A new open access paper published by INFORMA researchers in Forests MDPI explores the impact of different silvicultural treatments on Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis Mill.) forests. The species is present in most lowland forests on limestone soils and semiarid to sub-humid climates in the Mediterranean basin.

Although the Aleppo pine is considered a key species in times of climate change due to its pioneer nature, versatility, and flexibility, there is a knowledge gap on the effects of silvicultural treatments (such as thinnings and transformation to uneven-aged stands) on tree growth, vulnerability and forest resilience. The study aims to bridge that gap by comparing managed to unmanaged research plots.

The new paper is authored by Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV) researchers Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Jose-Vicente Oliver-Villanueva, Victoria Lerma-Arce, and Edgar Lorenzo-Sáez, as well as Palacký University researcher David Fuente.

Access the publication “Improving Sustainable Forest Management of Pinus halepensis Mill. Mid-Aged Stands in a Context of Rural Abandonment, Climate Change, and Wildfires”.

Photo credit: Mario Piskor/Unsplash

Connecting public administration and academia to improve carbon offsetting in forestry

With the aim of improving collaboration between public administration and academia in the field of Sustainable Forest Management, the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV) held a conference on 3 May highlighting the role of the forestry sector as a carbon sink, as well as UPV’s scientific and technical work to speed up climate adaptation and strengthen the fight against the climate emergency.

Translating scientific knowledge into practice is not easy. For this reason, meaningful communication between different agents in the sector through in-person interactions can be extremely useful. Bringing science closer to all actors in a simple and colloquial language while using scientific data as a basis helps generate confidence when making decisions and establishing policies and regulatory frameworks.

Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) and the opportunity to finance it through carbon offset mechanisms was the common thread of the workshop, as in the last decades, carbon offset markets have strongly emerged as a dual opportunity. On the one hand, for public/private stakeholders committed to sustainability and preservation of natural capital to become climate neutral and offset their emissions at the local level. On the other hand, for local governments to finance the implementation of SFM measures and offer incentives to halt rural depopulation.

The conference “Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) as a basis for carbon offset markets” was organised by the Observatory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions of the Valencian Region and the coordinating team of INFORMA, both belonging to UPV’s ICT Research Group against Climate Change (ICTvsCC). The event was opened by Prof. Dr. Javier F. Urchueguía, Professor of Applied Physics, and Prof. Dr. José Vicente Oliver Villanueva, Professor of Forestry Engineering and coordinator of INFORMA.

After the opening, two didactic presentations were given, highlighting the specific objectives of the conference:

  1. To analyse and evaluate existing tools (standards and mechanisms) for the establishment of carbon offset markets, at the European, national and regional levels, assessing the opportunities for SFM in adaptation and mitigation to climate change in Mediterranean conditions.
  2. Quantify and evaluate carbon emissions and sources in the Valencian Region, as a basis for the establishment of a rigorous offset market, supported by the new Valencian Law on Climate Change.

ICTvsCC researcher and technical coordinator of INFORMA, Celia Yagüe, focused her presentation on explaining how carbon offset markets based on rigorous standards and mechanisms represent a great opportunity for the implementation of SFM in our forests. In addition, she stressed that this must be done in compliance with an essential requirement: to favour a territorial, environmental and socially just transition.

Rural areas have traditionally been the most neglected by public investments, but they hold the opportunity to offer carbon credits for SFM, and the recent Valencian Law on Climate Change opens a very important avenue for that, remarked Yagüe. In line with this objective, UPV is taking the first steps to ensure rigorous methodologies that use the latest technological advances through INFORMA. Work is being carried out on the proposal of technological and conceptual improvements, which will be applied to the project’s five European case studies, to check their efficiency in economic and precision terms. Conclusions will be drawn from this work to recommend improvements to the new European regulation for a CO2 absorption certification framework at the EU level.

Dr. Edgar Lorenzo, ICTvsCC researcher and Technical Coordinator of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Observatory, explained the large impact of forest fires in the quantification of greenhouse gases, which can represent a large percentage of total emissions. In this sense, Lorenzo highlighted the importance of developing methodologies for calculating carbon credits from SFM projects aimed at fire prevention within voluntary carbon offsetting mechanisms in Mediterranean forest ecosystems. He stressed how this type of project can help in mitigating and adapting to climate change as well as in the territorial structuring of the territory, generating rural employment and stopping depopulation.

You can access the recordings of the two presentations below (in Spanish): 

After these two presentations, two roundtables were held. The first panel, Science at the Service of the Administration, focused on how forest owners (public and private) can expand and improve SFM so that industrial and economic sectors responsible for diffuse emissions can make use of SFM as a carbon offsetting mechanism.


Manuel Civera, from the Valencian Agency for Territorial Protection, focused on waste heat valorisation of regional forest biomass technologies as an opportunity for territorial and rural development.

For his part, Juan Uriol, from the Directorate General of Natural Environment and Environmental Assessment (Valencian Regional Government) indicated the public and voluntary carbon footprint register as a novelty within the new Regulation of the Valencian Forestry Law. The register envisages silvicultural improvements as a way to offset carbon instead of, for instance, charging fees. Another point made by Uriol was that, in order to combat forest fires, investment in fire prevention is vital.

Beatriu Femenia, from the Valencian Regional Government (DG Climate Change-Valencian Regional Government), also underlined the opportunity to include SFM activities in the carbon register of the Valencian Region, highlighting the cooperation between science and administration that is taking place through different channels, including UPV’s Observatory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Joan Aguado, from the Regional County Council of Valencia, mentioned the Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (PACES) as a good practice example. However, he pointed out that in many municipalities grants are not executed due to a lack of knowledge or people trained to carry them out. He also pointed out the importance of SFM for sustaining ecosystem functions (adaptation) and the need to quantify, certify and fix carbon as inter-territorial compensation between coastal and inland areas.

Fernando Pradells, from AMUFOR (Association of Forestry Municipalities of the Valencian Region), focused his talk on the need to demand SFM as a goal and not as a tool, in which value is given to the bioeconomy with tangible products.

Edgar Lorenzo, from UPV, pointed out that the economic value of carbon is only a leverage to support other ecosystem services such as biodiversity, the water footprint, or the prevention of forest fires in the Mediterranean basin.

The second roundtable discussed opportunities for voluntary carbon offsetting in companies and other organisations. Among the different statements and insights, the following can be highlighted:

David Álvarez, representative of the Spanish Green Growth Group, commented on how this organisation helps the public administration to optimise policies and instruments for private investment, as they spark interest from businesses but there must be agile regulations and tools to facilitate corporate involvement. He also indicated that “Companies will invest in transformation because it will be part of their business model, not only seen as corporate social responsibility….. so that the activities do not only make sense but also have a purpose”. He mentioned that companies only invest if there are associated returns, so we must be able to transform not only carbon markets but also other forms of profit associated with natural capital. Otherwise, we will not achieve the path to fair transformation.

Eloy Jiménez, from the Hozono Global Group, spoke about the contributions of remote sensing to measure C02, emphasising the importance of quantifying and fixing carbon using tools for small offsets.

Ana-Karen Zapata, Operations Director of ClimateTrade, explained how coherence in the development of regional methodologies helps to follow the sequence of measuring and reducing emissions, with offsetting as the last step. She emphasised the need for tools that provide real-time information and mentioned the high price of offsetting in the international market.

Inés Picazo, Coordinator of the ASECAM Forum, addressed the importance of having a Committee of leading companies at the local level, both in the medium and long term. Picazo considers that programmes and/or policies that already work in other Spanish regions and that represent an opportunity for growth as a country should be taken into account.

Rodrigo Simón, from the Valencia Chamber of Commerce, stated that promoting local and sustainable businesses is the future of municipalities. From his experience, after several audits in Valencian companies, great potential can be seen for the reduction and compensation of CO2, however, more effective calculation tools are still needed.

You can watch the recording of the roundtable sessions below:

José Vicente Oliver, Professor of Forestry Engineering at the UPV, closed the conference by reading out the following takeaway messages:

  • Carbon offsetting, specifically in SFM, is an opportunity but it should not be the first priority. First emissions must be calculated, then reduced and then offset.
  • There is a lack of mechanisms or standards for SFM specific to actions in Mediterranean forest ecosystems, both in adaptation and mitigation activities.
  • In the Valencian Region, there is significant territorial dispersion, which affects not only carbon offsetting but all ecosystem services in general. These services should be articulated as a tool for inter-territorial solidarity for a just transition.
  • The offer side (public and private landowners) must do their homework so that regulations and standards between them are coherent, thereby speeding up administrative processes.
  • Companies will invest in carbon offsetting mechanisms if it is really part of their business model and not only part of their corporate social responsibility.
  • There are technological tools developed by UPV and Technological Institutes at the service of the forestry sector, as well as the rigorous and quality data that support them.

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:

Interview: The interplay between the new Valencian Climate Change Law, forests and rural development

By Marta Esteve, Polytechnic University of Valencia

In December 2022, the new Law on Climate Change and Ecological Transition of the Valencian Region came into force, setting targets to make the Valencian Region climate neutral by 2050.

The law creates a series of mechanisms to decarbonise different economic sectors and public administrations, such as a carbon footprint register where companies and public entities must register their carbon footprint and submit decarbonisation plans. The text places more emphasis on the so-called diffuse economic sectors (services) and establishes mobility policies such as the creation of low-emission zones, and the promotion of public transport and zero-emission vehicles. Three green taxes will be applied to polluting vehicles, commercial areas with a high number of vehicles, and industries that emit large amounts of CO2. Since its approval, the law is being presented and disseminated to stakeholders and society in general.

To discuss key aspects of the law, implementation challenges and how it relates to forests, INFORMA’s Project Controller and Communications Coordinator at the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV), Marta Esteve, interviewed the Director General of Climate Change of the Valencian Region, Celsa Monrós. Read the highlights of the interview below!

The Director General of Climate Change of the Valencian Region, Celsa Monrós

What are the strengths of the new Valencian Climate Change law?

The law sets binding objectives for the whole society and all regional and local administrations in order to prepare the transition to a sustainable society and economy adapted to the impacts of climate change. It also sets up governance mechanisms and tools such as the Emissions Inventory, the Registry of Climate Initiatives, the Valencian Integrated Energy and Climate Change Plan, and the municipal Climate Action Plans to make this transition easier.

What have been the main difficulties in drafting the law? What will be the main challenges to putting it into practice?

Any regulatory text, due to its own nature and the need to ensure legal certainty, entails a very long and complex process, which sometimes becomes demotivating if you are not very clear about your goal. Another point was the level of concreteness and ambition: it is a very cross-cutting law that covers all areas of the economy and society. Deciding on the level of detail that we should define in the law and what we should leave for further development was complicated – finding the proper balance, even though it is a very extensive law that defines specific measures. We were criticised by some sectors for not defining it even more, but we had to make a cut at some point.

How will the new standard contribute to territorial development, specially to stop rural depopulation and all the associated activities, such as forest management?

We have to find formulas to be able to pay for the ecosystem services provided by rural areas, understanding them as large areas of carbon sequestration from the natural environment, but also areas with large territories where solar or photovoltaic power plants can be set up. The rural landscape will change like the rest of the landscape, partly due to the impacts of climate change (desertification, crop change, major fires, redefinition of the coastline), and partly due to new activities (implementation of renewable energies). We must find a balance through a brave dialogue with rural communities so that they do not feel that they are once again the ones paying for the transition, but rather that they are key players in it.

In forest management, biomass can play a fundamental role as a repository of carbon, which not only has an output as a source of renewable energy but also as a raw material for a multitude of products that until now have come from fossil fuels.

How do you foresee Sustainable Forest Management and voluntary carbon offset markets within the framework of this law?

Within the Registry of Climate Change Initiatives, there is a section on offsetting emissions, where we want to promote the voluntary carbon offset market. We will also have to identify areas that can be reforested or managed and formulas for their transfer or exploitation for offset projects, taking into account the ownership and the ecosystemic characteristics of the area.

What relevance does climate mitigation have in the law?

It is one of the most important aspects, hence the objectives and the need to know the carbon footprint and the reduction plans of all those sectors that have a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions in the Valencian Region. But of course, the adaptation part also is a very important component, because we cannot forget that climate change is already having consequences in our territory, which are increasing, and for which we must be prepared to reduce our vulnerability and give an effective response when they take place.

How is the law articulated with the EU Forestry Strategy and other European Union mechanisms?

This law has aimed to align itself with the European Green Deal, the RePowerEU, the national legislation and that which already existed in the Valencian Autonomous Region. As I have mentioned, the dialogue with the other actors and departments has been continuous, and right now the Forestry Regulation of the Valencian Region is at the point of being approved, which has taken into account the law on issues such as the resilience of our forests and the creation of mechanisms to facilitate reforestation for the compensation of emissions. In the end we are all clear about the diagnosis, objectives and we are aligning the mechanisms to provide the most effective and efficient response possible. We must coordinate and act on each administration in the field of our competences so that the government machinery is synchronized and aligned.

How have you integrated and involved relevant actors in the implementation of the law? How do you plan to keep doing it in the future?

It is a law that has been very participatory. We began with sectoral roundtables, with the participation of more than 80 public and private entities, where we were able to listen to the different approaches to the fight against climate change, barriers, interests and needs of each sector. Then there was a period of allegations, with more than 200 proposals, and finally the legislative debate in the Valencian Regional Parliament.

Currently, we are in the process of disseminating and communicating about the law, and then, within the law, we have created a system of governance in which both the administration, through the Climate Change Policy Coordination Commission, and the community, through the Citizen Assembly or the Environmental Advisory and Participation Council, have a voice in the development and monitoring of the measures.

To what extent does the law use and supports scientific-technical collaborations and public-private partnerships?

The law includes the creation of a Committee of Experts, which should help to develop and define the measures for the transition to a new economic and social model, in which, of course, all the stakeholders of society will have to be involved. Research, training and education are also mentioned as part of this blend to develop new services and new economic models.

At the moment we are already working in many sectors with these public-private alliances, such as in water purification or waste treatment, where waste management is being tendered out to companies. Now, these companies must go further and understand their role in reducing emissions, through, for example, the production of biogas as an added value to water treatment or organic waste treatment to reduce methane emissions.

The production of renewable energies is also one of the most controversial issues, where land occupation, the possibility of compensatory payments to municipalities, or compatibility with other activities will lead to the negotiation and creation of partnerships between companies, society and public administration.

What are the law’s most ambitious objectives? What main advances does this regional law provide with respect to the national one?

The reduction of diffuse emissions to 40% with regard to 1990 is surely the most ambitious objective of all, and one that requires changes in energy production, the building sector, urban planning, mobility, agriculture and management of the natural environment. We are talking about the need to include the climate perspective in absolutely all economic and social sectors.

The law follows the “polluter pays” premise with the corresponding taxes on emissions. Are there any lines of subsidies, incentives or other measures envisaged beyond individual awareness?

The taxes that are created, of which there are three types, have a more educational function than a revenue-raising one, but in any case they are finalist taxes. This means that the collection made from them, in addition to those budgetary amounts that can be defined by the Valencian Regional Government later on, will be destined to an Ecological Transition Fund that will help to make the necessary transition in different sectors and that its destination will be defined on an annual basis.

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).