Another year has passed marked by abnormal climate-related disasters. From north to south, Europe battled extreme weather events. Floods in Slovenia, Italy, Czechia and Germany forcing inhabitants to evacuate their homes on Christmas Day; landslides in Norway; rampant wildfires difficult to contain by traditional firefighting in Greece; heat waves in Spain, the latest in early December when a mass of hot air pushed the temperature up to around 27ºC in some cities.
Climate change combined with extreme conditions are causing more frequent and intense cross-border catastrophic events, some posing direct threats to human health and safety. Several EU strategies, regulations and directives have been created to mitigate these impacts and ensure the various environmental, social and economic functions of forests can be fulfilled in the future. Moreover, the geopolitical developments resulting from the war in Ukraine and consequent ban on Russian refined oil products also intensified the pressure on European forests.
The new year will likely bring us similar challenges that planted forests can help tacke since they can stabilise climate by regulating ecosystems, protecting biodiversity and playing an integral part in the carbon cycle absorbing CO2 and contributing to a carbon-neutral economy while at the same time reducing the pressure from native/oldgrowth forests.
At IEFC, we believe that only sustainable forest management and the sustainable use of resources can help combat climate change, and contribute to the prosperity and well-being of current and future generations. This can only be achieved by empowering forest managers/owners by giving them access to the latest scientific research results, management support tools and providing them with examples of solutions implemented by others that can be applied or adapted to solve their problems.
During 2023, IEFC team has worked on transfering knowledge gathered under the scope of several research projects. In order to provide necessary technical input and expertise to forest owners and practitioners several webinars and conferences were organized aligned with the main focus areas defined in the IEFC strategic plan. These covered topics such as tools developed to assist forest management such as the SILVALERT phone app for collecting information on biotic damages observed in forests or the IT tools developed under the scope of Virtual Forests project; disturbance events, counting with the organization of the Wind and Trees Conference and the presentation of the main achievements of HOMED project that compiled scientific knowledge and practical solutions for the management of emerging pests and pathogens in European forests; the final conference of COMFOR-SUDOE that seeked to promote multi-species plantations as a resilient adaptive strategy to climate change and declining biodiversity or the organization of the 5th International Congress on Planted Forests 2023 nature-based solution to meet growing needs in wood products, restore forest ecosystems, and mitigate climate change.
I would like to express my deepest appreciation to IEFC’s team for their dedication and hard work, to the Board for their valuable contributions that guide us along the way, to the Donors for their contributions and to all our members for their partnership and interest. Over the past year, IEFC has extended its network across Europe and beyond. We have officially taken on board Italy, Latvia and New Zealand and hope more will join.
The growing interest in our network proves our efforts to make a difference in valuing the importance of planted forests to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change and disturbances worldwide. The future holds great promise and I’m confident that, with the suport of this growing multidisciplinary network, IEFC can continue promoting the importance of planted forests and their contribution to climate change mitigation and adaptation: supporting emerging efforts towards the reforestation and afforestation of areas lost or damaged by (a)biotic risks; enforcing a responsible forest management with a special focus on improving forest productivity; and assist in the process of unlocking and valuing forest benefits essential to a sustainable and equitable supply of forest goods and services. May 2024 bring peace, joy and resilient forests, planted or not.
Susana Barreiro, President of IEFC