High mountain peaks, rich wildlife and two national parks surround the INFORMA case study in Austria: the Forest Management District of Göstling, in the Northern Limestone Alps. The district is part of the Prealps Unit of the Austrian Federal Forests, comprising a remote area of approximately 10,000 ha mainly covered by mountain forests with altitudes ranging from 600-1800 meters above sea level.
Although undeniably scenic, this vast forested landscape is also marked by contradictions. Historically, the naturally occurring Norway Spruce has been favoured by foresters due to its superior growth performance and ease of management. But as climate change worsens and increases the occurrence of droughts, which weaken trees’ natural defence mechanisms, the species is becoming a common target of destructive bark beetle outbreaks.
As Norway Spruce is particularly vulnerable to climate change, the overall strategic aim of forest management is to reduce its share in species composition and establish mixed-species forest stands. To achieve this, measures are necessary to minimise another less obvious disturbance: ungulate browsing. The impact of ungulate browsing constitutes a severe problem for forest regeneration – both in the case of natural regeneration and of tree planting – and may require costly measures to protect tree saplings of species such as silver fir and beech.
Current management in the Austrian case study focuses on timber production in certain areas and on nature conservation in others, such as nature reserves where there is no human intervention or very low-intensity management. In managed areas, the main goal is wood production and the most common approach to harvesting is the strip-wise shelterwood method, in which mature trees are removed in a series of cuttings, enabling the stand to regenerate below the partial shelter of the remaining old trees. Regeneration may also be actively supported by planting. Other forest management goals include wildlife management, hunting as well as protection from gravitational hazards (avalanches, rockfall, erosion, and landslides).
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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”.
Imagine you are responsible for a large, forested area in Europe. Will you manage it, or let nature run its course? If you decide to manage your forest, what would be the consequences? Would it store more carbon? Would it use its resources more efficiently, or produce more wood? What about biodiversity conservation? Would the unmanaged choice have more bird species? Another factor to consider is the frequency of disturbance events, such as fires and windstorms, which is increasing due to climate change. Since you will want to keep the resilience of your forest high, which management option would contribute better to this goal?
Unfortunately, current research answers these questions ambiguously. The relationships between the management of forests, provisioning of several ecosystem services and resilience to disturbances remain rather unclear. In addition, several of the ecosystem services we expect from forests have trade-offs between each other. The bottom line is: before deciding what to do with your forest, you should know your viable management options (including the decision to not manage), and which consequences different implementation options have on how your forest functions. In Work Package 2 (WP2) of INFORMA, led by KU Leuven, we will investigate this knowledge gap. To do so, we are developing the INFORMA Forest Management Platform: a new, large database that is specifically designed to answer management-related questions for European forests.
The idea behind the Platform is to compare adjacent managed and unmanaged forest patches all over Europe. This is being done by linking unmanaged patches with one or more managed patches in their vicinity (as shown in the banner image of this post). We can then compare ecosystem functioning between the forest patches in such a cluster.
However, if we want to statistically extract the effect of forest management, we should keep other factors that influence ecosystem functioning as similar as possible. This is why forest patches within a cluster should differ as little as possible in terms of climate, soil, topography (elevation, slope and aspect) and land use legacy.
Also the species composition is accounted for. This variable is somewhat more complex: within the cluster, we make sure that there is at least one managed patch that has a similar species composition to the unmanaged patch. This allows us to investigate the effect of management that influences forest structure (such as thinning, logging, etc.) in all clusters. Since the choice of species can be a management decision in itself, if a cluster contains more than one managed patch, we allow for one of the patches to have a different species composition. In any case, the other properties, such as soil, climate etc., should still be as similar as possible.
Europe has multiple forest types. In order to make the database representative, we need to make sure that the major forest types are represented with a sufficient amount of clusters. To achieve this, five INFORMA core regions will be used for the Platform: the Woods of Brabant (Belgium, Atlantic forest), the Segre-Rialb Basin (Spain, Mediterranean forest), the Northern Karelia region (Finland, boreal forest), the Northern Limestone Alps (Austria, alpine forest) and the Râșca Forest District (Romania, continental forest).
All of these regions link to partners within the INFORMA project. These are local experts that help with the design of the Platform through 1) suggesting clusters to include in the Platform based on their expert knowledge of the region, 2) provisioning data that can be used to delineate the patches and perform analyses and 3) suggesting context-dependent variables to include in the analysis (for example, whether we should rather incorporate soil texture or soil depth in a specific region). In addition to these five regions, the Division Forest, Nature and Landscape (FNL) of KU Leuven will use its international contacts to expand the Platform into other European countries, thereby increasing its representativeness and quality.
The delineation of the patches happens in several steps. First, the WP2 members write a protocol, discussing in detail what the Platform should look like, as well as the minimum requirements for the patches and the clusters (e.g. size). In a second step, the local experts suggest several clusters in their region based on this protocol. Next, a session with WP2 members and the local experts is organized to discuss 1) whether the requirements have been met, 2) whether there have been obstacles and 3) whether there are more opportunities for finding additional clusters, or whether there are other things to consider. Once this has been resolved, we do a final checkup of the requirements based on existing databases and satellite imagery, and then delineate the final clusters to be included in the Platform. In a last phase, every patch in the database will be populated with site information derived from existing databases, as well as values indicating ecosystem service performance derived from satellite imagery, e.g. carbon sequestration and water-use efficiency.
Once the database has been populated and analyses have been done, it will finally be ready to be used in practice! For instance, the database can help guide policy-making: which ecosystem services require management and which do not? It can also be used by forest managers to determine whether and how they can optimize certain ecosystem functions in their forests. Furthermore, it can support scientists in further research, adding detailed and different analyses, field data campaigns etc.
Lastly, it can contribute to answering your very difficult question… what to do with your forest: to manage or not to manage? To find out the answers, stay tuned to the INFORMA website, where we will announce the launch of the Forest Management Platform in the course of the project.
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!