From National Forest Inventories to European level forest monitoring
“Information on our forests has never been as important as it is today” stated Raphaël Lelouvier, Forest Policy Officer at the European Commission, in the webinar on European forest monitoring, that gathered 240 participants representing research, industry, ministries, EU Institutions, international organizations, NGOs, to mention just a few.
On January 27th 2022 the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) and the European National Forest Inventories Network (ENFIN) organized a webinar titled “From National Forest Inventories to European level forest monitoring”. The title describes the aim of the webinar: to continue work for developing European forest monitoring system, as recognised in the New EU Forest Strategy for 2030, with full utilization of National Forest Inventories, NFIs, as recommended in the Council conclusions on the Strategy.In the webinar, Petteri Packalen and Kari T. Korhonen from Luke presented how Finland as a forest rich country has organized forest resource data production for different purposes. A clear message from the presentation was that for different decision making situations different kind of data are needed, and one forest inventory system cannot serve all the information needs. For regional, national and EU-level decision making NFIs are needed, for operational forest management other type of information is needed.
The webinar presentations included an example how harmonized NFI data have been used for very relevant scientific research on climate change impacts. ClémentineOls from the National Institute of Geographic and Forest Information (IGN) showed how French and Austrian NFI increment data were used to monitor climate change impacts on forest growth and to study resilience of different tree species in changing climate. There is a need to expanding the research to the whole Europe, and the necessary data are already produced in many European NFIs. Deep understanding of the data sets and different forest ecosystems is a prerequisite for valid conclusions due to the different set ups in each Member State NFI and variety of forest types in Europe.Iciar Alberdi from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC-INIA) showed the possibilities of European NFIs for biodiversity monitoring to better contribute towards a more complex and harmonized long-term assessment of the biodiversity and conservation status of forest ecosystems. Data on many biodiversity related variables, such as tree species composition, stand structure and dead wood are already collected in all the NFIs. Many NFIs collect also data on other biodiversity related variables. Some of these variables can nowadays only be acquired with field measurements (e.g. regeneration, invasive or endangered species or genetic diversity). According to Alberdi, there is a need to agree on common set of monitored parameters and harmonized or even standardized definitions for these and to increase efforts to integrate NFI with other sources of information.
The European Commission representatives Raphaël Lelouvier (DG ENV) and Alessandro Cescatti (Joint Research Center, JRC) pointed out that European level policies need extensive and detailed forest information, with highest spatial and temporal resolution. According to Lelouvier the European Commission is preparing a legislative proposal for forest observation, reporting and data collection framework. By mid-2023 EU shall adopt new monitoring framework that will provide EU policy relevant data on forests, utilizing both remote sending and ground data. The Commission's Joint Research Center (JRC), in accordance with the EU Forest strategy, is developing a European Forest science partnership to develop new indicators based on remote sensing and latest research results.
The ENFIN chair Klemens Schadauer from the Austrian Federal Office and Research Center for forests (BFW) emphasized in his presentation how field data based on scientific sampling design is irreplaceable in monitoring forests. Several very relevant parameters simply cannot be observed or measured otherwise. “Remote sensing is a useful tool for some forest related parameters and for providing timely and harmonized data” Schadauer explained. He concluded that NFIs have strong expertise in combining sample plot data with remote sensing techniques.
Finally, Johannes Breidenbach from the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) informed the webinar participants about a Horizon Europe project, PathFinder, which is currently in the grant agreement process. In PathFinder, ENFIN and several European partners will develop the future European forest monitoring and pathway assessment framework to respond to new information needs.
Kari T. Korhonen, Principal Scientist, LukeMarkus Lier, Researcher, LukeMika Mustonen, Senior Specialist, LukeKlemens Schadauer, ENFIN chair, The Austrian Federal Office and Research Center for forests (BFW)
The webinar presentations and subsequent panel discussion can be concluded with following recommendations
1) EU forest related policies call for monitoring data. It is not yet defined in detail which forest attributes need to be monitored but obviously very detailed data on several forest characteristics are needed, and the monitoring need to utilize both remote sensing and well-defined field observations. 2) The European NFIs are experienced in providing harmonized, policy-relevant forest data, and ready to cooperate with the Commission bodies to process the existing data to meaningful information. 3) Governance issues need to be urgently solved. Collecting harmonised forest data and processing it to usable information needs resources, even if done with already existing NFIs. The ENFIN network needs a well-defined, legal status, to fully serve the needs of the Commission. EU Member States need motivation to commit to at least partly standardized practices in forest data provision and reporting.
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