We will make our project concrete through different work packages.
The first work package concerns the realization of maps of old-growth forests in Europe. Before making maps, we’ll elaborate criteria and methods to map the forests in a consistent way. The second work package consists in identifying the benefits of old-growth forests, which are called “ecosystem services”. The third work package consists in communication about old growth forests in Europe.
Every work package contains different actions the partners will undertake to reach together the project’s goals within a duration of 4 years.
More details about our actions
WP A.1.1: Definition of old growth forest and development of methods
The project foresees the development of a document with definitions, criteria, indicators and thresholds for old-growth beech forests. At the end of June 2021, a preliminary report, a 40 pages document, with over 70 scientific references, was drafted by INBO and presented to the project partners requesting their feedback. The document gives an extensive overview of existing definitions of Primary and OGF and the first proposal of a set of criteria and indicators for the assessment of OG status. Proposed threshold values and methods to combine and conclude different scoring outcomes are included. The final product, which will be delivered with limited delay early 2022, is much more elaborate than originally envisaged.
- Action A.1.11: Definition of old growth forest
- Action A.1.12: Compilation of existing mapping products
Expected results will be compiled GIS-layers and description of existing mapping products of old growth in Europe. Furthermore, an overview report of the results will be conducted. In concertation with DG-environment, this subtask was postponed to a later phase of the project, to avoid redundant work. A very similar compilation of existing mapping exercises was performed by the JRC and incorporated in the publication ‘Mapping and assessment of primary and old-growth forests in Europe’ (Barredo et al., 2021).
The original description of the task will therefore also be altered and re-oriented towards the mapping of ‘quality of old-growthness’ for the test areas of WP2. This can only be done after the fieldwork has been concluded at the end of 2022. The timing of this alternative mapping is now rescheduled to the second half of 2023.
- Action A.1.13: Screening of Remote-sensing-based mapping methods for old growth forest
A thorough literature review is made on the application of Remote Sensing for the identification and mapping of primary and old-growth forests. The methodologies and results of different remote sensing data sources were evaluated and rated by criteria as data availability, quality of results and costs.
WP A.1.2 Application of mapping methods on a set of known or suspected old growth forests
Action A.1.21 Field mapping and testing of indicators developed in WP A.1.1
Based on the criteria and indicators (action A1.11), a protocol will be developed for standardised field mapping and assessment of the level of old growth status of forest areas.
This mapping guideline will be implemented in a set of test sites. These test sites comprise of a specifically selected set of component parts and adjacent buffer zones of the World Heritage site “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forest of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe”, covering the wide range of managed and unmanaged beech forest types and biogeographical zones (Atlantic, Alpine, Continental and Mediterranean biogeographic region). Following test sites were assessed: Sonian Forest (BE), NP Kalkalpen (AT), Krokar & Snežnik-Zdrocle (SI), Central Balkan NP (BG), Chornohora in Carpathian Biosphere Reserve (UA), NP Hainich and Kellerwald NP (DE), Abruzzo NP (IT).
Action A.1.22 Evaluation of existing datasets
In this action the existing maps and reference plot data compiled in action 1.12 will be checked against the results of field mapping implemented in action 1.21.
In November 2021 the National Park Abruzzo was visited to discuss the old-growth indicators and field protocol for collecting data in the component parts located in the park. After the field visit, the list of old-growth indicators (action A.1.11) was finalized and aligned with the methodology for inventory on sampling plot level. A form for the plot inventory was drafted in December 2021. In 2022, A work-shop for the technical staff conducting the measurements will be held in Slovenia. This way minimal requirements can be decided on concerning the methodologies for measuring the different indicators. The technical staff will have the opportunity to compare and practice different techniques and exchange expertise with the staff from other regions in Europe.
Action A.1.23: Application of the remote sensing approach
Within this action, a remote sensing approach will be developed, tested and calibrated to distinguish managed versus old growth beech forest ecosystems.
The approach will be based on available remote sensing data from satellite or air borne laser scan data and will take availability and costs into considerations to provide an up-scalable approach with scalability to be implemented for whole Europe. The application of the remote sensing approach will be done on a set of tests sites within the World Heritage Components and the adjacent forest habitats: Sonian Forest (BE), NP Kalkalpen (AT), NP Hainich (DE), Kellerwald NP(DE), Central Balkan NP (BG), Abruzzo NP (IT), Carpathian Biosphere Reserve (UA). A scientific paper on the remote sensing approach that is developed and applied will be conducted. Furthermore, a methodology/-ies of distinguishing old growth beech forest from other forest from one or several remote sensing data sources will be developed.
Action A.1.24 Evaluation of remote sensing results
The resulting remote sensing maps delivered in action 1.23 will be compared to and evaluated on their precision by field data (action 1.21) and existing maps and data (action 1.12). The first test run will be done after the first application of the remote sensing approach on at least 4 test sites in 3 biogeographic regions covering in total at least 100.000 ha. The resulting maps will be compared to field data. The classes of naturalness in the remote sensing map (managed – old growth) will be compared with existing maps and field data sets. Statistical tests will be run to evaluate and quantify the precision of the remote sensing approach in a scientific way. After the first run, the feedback will be reported to the experts of the remote sensing approach to adapt their model to the evaluation data to improve the results. After the refining of the remote sensing approach, the final outcome will be tested again, and the results will be published in a scientific paper.
Action A.1.25 Compilation of final results
This action brings together all major outputs of WP1, that will provide an overall ‘state of knowledge’ that will deliver a valuable and significant contribution to a European-wide, scientifically sound, high resolution map of old growth forest in Europe
As beech forests make up an important part of forests and old growth remnants in Europe, the project outputs will contribute an important part to a Europe-wide mapping of old growth forests.
This work will be complementary to the Europe-wide stock-taking exercise on existing old growth inventory and mapping exercises, initiated by DG-Environment and coordinated by the JRC. A close communication with this initiative is envisaged, in order to avoid double work and provide the maximum added value.
Action A.2.01 Assessing the influence of forest management on microclimate
Action A.2.02 Assessing the influence of forest management on carbon storage
Forests capture significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store a large proportion of this carbon in tree and soil biomass. In the preliminary phase, the team will provide a scientific background from the literature available on quantifying forest carbon and select a sampling strategy to be applied to European forests. Then, a measurement scheme to quantify carbon stocks in the field will be developed to be able to compare managed and primary/old growth forests. The sampling approach will regard living and dead biomass plus the organic component in the soil. A sampling scheme for coring trees and measure more precisely wood density in the primary and old growth forests across Europe will be set up. New empirical data on the carbon density of wood of different growing conditions and decay stages will help to have more robust reference data than the existing published papers are providing by now. Tree-rings would provide useful insights for biodiversity too.
Action A.2.03 Assessing the influence of forest management on biodiversity
European literature analysis on biodiversity and the linkage of rare species to specific micro habitats and structures of old growth forest will give insight in the important microhabitats and key structures in beech forests that indicate high biodiversity, the threshold quantities of these microhabitats and key structures to maintain a typical beech forest species biodiversity, and what species indicate the existence and long-term continuity of primary and old growth structures of the forest stand. Based on the literature analysis, a list of structural indicators and microhabitats will be developed and implemented in a standardized field protocol and survey setup. This protocol will be applied for all test sites, to provide adequate data for the ecosystem services assessment
Action A.2.04 Assessing the influence of forest management on recreation and tourism
In several test sites the ecosystem service of primary and old growth forests for recreation and tourism are assessed. For this purpose, touristic base data on available infrastructure (hotels beds) in the region and the number of visitors as well as the infrastructure for recreational use (trails, picnic areas …) are assessed for each test site. Interviews and queries with visitors will help to assess and rate the motivation of visiting (old growth) forest and will deliver the input data for the calculation of the monetary value based on a willingness to pay or travel-distance approach.
E.C.O. Institute of Ecology will develop the mapping and data harvesting guideline for collecting the base data for recreation and tourism (infrastructure, overnight-statistics) as well as the protocols and questionnaires for the inquiries. The data collection will be done by the local site managements (partners in the LIFE project). E.C.O. will coordinate and supervise the data collection and will compile the results for the final analysis of the ecosystem services.
Action A.2.05 Collection and compilation of ecosystem information from test sites
While the assessment methodology and literature research is provided in the actions 2.01-2.04 (concerning influence on microclimate, carbon storage, biodiversity and recreation and tourism), in this action the collection and compilation of field data on site level will be provided. The guidelines, templates and databases for the data collection as well as the supervision during the data collection process will be provided by the leading partners of the above-mentioned actions (2.01-2.04) and are budgeted in these actions.
Action A.2.06 Calculation of ecosystem services for test sites
Based on the data from literature, existing inventories and the field surveys implemented in action 2.05, the ecosystem services for microclimate, carbon storage, biodiversity and recreation & tourism will be calculated for the selected test sites. In a first step, the quantity of the services for managed and primary/old growth forests will be analysed and calculated for each of the test sites. Based on this ecological and empiric quantification of the services, the transformation to economic values will be done. Scientific publications will report on these results.
Action B.3.01 Development of a communication and awareness raising strategy and implementation instruments
An online questionnaire was developed by the City of Angermünde (CANG) and sent to all participating organizations as well as to all management authorities of the World Heritage Site Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe. This is to collect the baseline data about the actual communication activities and formats. Additionally, all available documents and information already developed within previous projects shall be searched, collected, and compiled. Eventually a handbook about communication strategies, target groups, types of communication, possible methods and best practice shall be developed and made available for all partners and the members of the World Heritage Site Beech Forests. Their inputs and feedback will be implemented into the handbook, which will be finalized and serve as a guideline for international communication of old growth forests.
- Action B.3.02 Local and national awareness raising
The planned working steps and activities on local and national scale will be based on the already developed materials of the Coordination Office of the World Heritage Site and shall fit the demands of local and national partners and stakeholders. Through different actions the values and ecosystem services of primary and old growth forests on the one hand and the project itself, on the other hand are presented and communicated. This is to ensure a broad understanding for both, the forest itself and the work that is done to protect them and their services.
Action B.3.03 European awareness raising
Convince European decisions makers of the importance of the protection of primary and old growth forests for the protection of the biodiversity. The results of work package B.1 and B.2 of this project will be used to enrich and strengthen the policy making efforts of the European Union presented in the European Green Deal, the EU new forestry strategy and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. This work package will be strongly linked with the pace of existing strategies, conventions and objectives on European level as well as on international level EU COP 15 or COP 16 of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The policy recommendations on the management and protection will be aligned with the IUCN Green list methodology.
Action B.3.04 Networking with other European projects (visit of other Life Projects)
By exchanging information, inviting one another to events and/or visiting each other’s projects, this LIFE project can create an interesting network with other LIFE projects, allowing for swift and easy sharing of information and expertise. We will contact interesting LIFE projects (via the LIFE database) or other projects that develop activities in the field of the protection of primary and old growth forests. At least two projects are to be visited: the Beech Power project (INTERREG) and the Wadden Sea (Unesco WHS). The Wadden Sea is one of the few other transnational Natural World Heritage Sites in Europe. It is important to exchange with them on how to improve the exchange of communication between a large group of partners in different countries. Moreover, they have an extensive experience on awareness raising. The Beech Power project aims to improve the management quality and effectiveness of this site to safeguard the ecosystem integrity of the single parts by improving capacities and active participation of relevant stakeholders.
Action B.3.00 Project communication
Communication is a very important element in a Life project. At the start of the project, within the first six months, an internal communication plan will be drawn up by the coordination beneficiary. The communication strategy will provide an overview of the different communication actions that will be undertaken during the project, the participating partners, and their scheduled timeframe. In the further actions a number of communication actions have been included that will certainly form part of the final plan. However, it is extremely important to have the flexibility to adapt the communication strategy during the progression of the project according to experience and feedback collected throughout the project. A website, newsletters, social media accounts and press releases contribute to and facilitate the communication.