Better management and protection for European forests thanks to MOTIVE project

The number of forest areas in Europe facing the onslaught of climate and land use changes, including fires, winds and droughts, is on the rise. For that reason, a concern that weighs on the minds of many Europeans is how to determine which trees adapt best to climate change, something the EU funded project MOTIVE ('Models for adaptive forest management') is trying to answer, by investigating the impact of intensified competition for forest resources given the changes to the climate and land.

The MOTIVE ('Models for adaptive forest management') project partners are spotlighting the uncertainties and risks lying on forest areas management, and how they can be used to enhance decision support tools. Various management options are being tested, including regimes, rotation length and species composition in 10 case study areas, to support forest owners seeking solid adaptive management options.

For that purpose, MOTIVE is supported under the Environment Theme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) with more that 7 million Euro. Coordinated by the Germany-based Forest Research Institute of Baden-Wurtemberg (FVA), MOTIVE is investigating how these changes affect various forest goods and services.

According to the consortium, the case study areas reflect the diversity and varied functions of Europe's forests, and the risks that could put their future in jeopardy. The areas being assessed are: North Karelia (Finland); Kronoberg (Sweden); Wales (UK); Southeast Veluwe (the Netherlands); Black Forest (Germany); Montafon Valley (Austria); Prades (Spain); Chamusca (Portugal); Panagyurishte (Bulgaria); and Carpathians (Romania).

The partners will use the results of the project to establish a database and provide tools for forest owners to help them in decision making and understand how these decisions could affect the future based on the management strategies they select. Advanced methods for adaptive forest management, recommendations for adaptive forest management in the case study areas, and recommendations for adaptive forest management in European forestry are some of the key findings the partners anticipate.

Also on the agenda for MOTIVE is to document recently observed growth and productivity trends in Europe, to project species and productivity shifts, and to summarise climate change induced risks. Information on stakeholder views on how to best deal with expected impacts and uncertainty will be available, the partners say.

In recent years, increased attention on biodiversity has resulted in the emergence of nature-oriented forest management, against even-aged and monospecific timber production systems that were active in the past. Forest management has gained a central role within environment challenges and fight against climate change, as it was pointed out by the priorities set by the EU at the meetings within the Climate Change Conference even before the meeting in Copenhagen in 2009.

In the case of European forest areas, as the MOTIVE partners highlight, the diversity of Europe's forests lies in the differences of soil, climate and management history. What does not set them apart is that the forests are actively managed and, say the experts, management is required to determine species composition, structure and future development.