The protective functions of forests offer ecological, economic and sustainable protection against natural hazards and related risks. On the 26th and 27th September 2019, EUSALP AG8 supported the organisation of the international expert conference and field trip about protection forests. Participants came from over 16 countries and enjoyed the fruitful knowledge exchange and cooperation.
Focus on climate change adaptation and forestry
The keynote speakers emphasized the need to research the effects of climate change on mountain ecosystems and communities, and adapt accordingly. Deputy governor of the Tyrol Josef Geisler mentioned that large parts of the Tyrol may only be settled because of an intact and stable protection forest. The mayor of Innsbruck Georg Willi underlined the importance of awareness raising for the important ecosystem services of forests in mountainous areas. Every citizen of Innsbruck should know about the important protective functions of forests around the city. Yuka Makino, team leader at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), gave an overview on international efforts to sustainably manage mountain watersheds and protection forests.
European Exchange about protection forest research and practice
The approximately 80 representatives from research, science, policy and government exchanged views on new findings in protection forest research and practice. They presented and discussed different definitions of protective functions and the impacts of climate change. All participants agreed that higher temperatures, drought, storms and insect calamities challenge and sustainably alter the forest and its ecosystem services. The presentations (please see attachment) inter alia dealt with the legal and institutional framework of protection forests, the mapping of rockfall protection forests in the Alps, climate scenarios and practical protection forest management with examples from Carinthia, France, Poland, Slovenia, South Tyrol Switzerland, Turkey, and Japan.
Excursion to Stubai Valley with practical protection forest management
The event was rounded off with an excursion to the Stubai Valley organised by the Tyrolean forest service and the local district forest inspectorate. From the slopes of the "Elfer Mountain" the participants could get an impression of alpine forestry work, natural hazard management and modern forestry technology. Among other things, the participants were introduced to cable transport with hybrid cranes and the principles of protection forest management. The head of the torrent and avalanche control in Tyrol further explained hazard zone mapping and technical and forestry measures to protect against natural hazards.
Overall, the conference and the field trip provided an excellent opportunity to discuss different forms of cooperation, create new networks, and get an inspiring perspective into the challenges of mountain forestry in a changing climate.