Last week, two authors of Forest Monitor (Rafał and Marco) visited IUFRO 2017 Conference that was held in Freiburg (Germany). In this post, we would like to share with you our insights about this conference, discuss some presentations and new ideas we have seen there and what was our general impression about the congress. Enjoy!
IUFRO and its 125th Anniversary Congress
International Union of Forest Research Organizations (I U F R O) was established in 1892 and it is considered as the word’s network of forest science. Originally, it was founded as the “International Union of Forest Experiment Stations” by three members: the Association of German Forest Experiment Stations, and the experiment stations of Austria and Switzerland. Therefore, it is not a surprise why IUFRO’s 125th Anniversary was organized in German-speaking country.
Currently, IUFRO is a non-profit, non-governmental organization, with its headquarter in Vienna (Austria), which unites over 15 000 scientists in more than 120 countries coming from over 650 member organizations such as research centers, universities, NGOs and decision making authorities.
Since its establishment, IUFRO for last 125 years has been committed to promoting international cooperation in research embracing the full range of topics related to forests and trees.
Luckily, we have different interests and backgrounds with respect to forestry. Marco is specialized more in ecology, while Rafal in economics. This discrepancy helped us to take a part in completely different sessions, and in this post we will briefly discuss what we have seen in this enormous congress, which gathered around 2000 participants, and sessions were literally from dusk til down.
Forest economics, management, lobbying and small scandal
First, I went to the session entitled “Decision Support Approaches in Adaptive Forest Management”, where researchers were presenting their work on different optimization technique in forest management. For instance, I got known that there is a limitation of clear cut in Czech Republic that is 1 ha only! I thought before that in Poland the limit is rather small , as we have clear cut up to 6ha. Anyway, in such conditions, researchers from Czech were trying to apply Network Flow Model in order to divide bigger forest stands into smaller areas to fulfill clear-cut constraints. It was very interesting to me, as before I thought that the main problem in forest management is to connect stands into clusters in order to minimize costs and improve logistics of all operations. On the other hand, the approach that I got used to, was presented by collegues from Sweden from SLU in the next presentation, who were applying HEUREKA model to cluster stands with similar characteristics. They were using spatial optimization, based on adjacent pair of pixels. If two pixels that share border are harvested in the same, then the model was clustering them together. I like Swedish approach a lot as it is based on very strong economical rules, such as Net Present Value, and the goal is very often to limit costs and improve efficiency of forest management.
Another good presentation, within this session, was presented by profesor Robert Marusak from Czech University of Life Sciences. He was examining the rotation age (115 years for Norway spruce) in Czech Republic, that it is still defined by felling maturity, i.e. when MAI (mean annual increment) = CAI (current annual increment). Prof. Marusak applied Bayes decision rule based on probability of trees survival and mean lifespan technique based on insurance approach (life of trees divided by mortality tables). Both methods have given him very similar results, i.e reduction of rotation age by 20-30 years for production oriented private forest owners, and 30-40 years reduction for economic oriented owners. In his presentation, I liked his conclusion that production or economic oriented private forest owners should reduce rotation period gradually (10 years after 10 years), not instantly at once. It was very interesting for me, as still I think that in my home country – Poland – we have too high rotation periods, as they are based on forest rent, instead on soil expectation value (SEV, LEV, Faustmann approach).
Then, on Monday came also my session entitled “Forest policies in the Baltic and Central and Eastern European (CEE) regions”. I was presenting my research work, described before at Forest Monitor blog:
>>READ MORE: How to evaluate state forest institutions?
In our study, we were pointing that State Forests in Poland should improve their cost efficiency, and that both State Forests and Ministry of Environment are terrible in mediating conflicts and they should do something with that. Recent conflict in Bialowieza Forest shows it very clearly.
>>READ MORE: Białowieża Forest in Poland – TRUE STORY!
However, there was a small scandal/argue during my presentation, when I said that in countries with post-comunistic history, the system is corrupted by default, when the Minister of Environment elects the General Director of State Forests. I meant that later General Director selects usually his own people based on political preferences, not skills, and later these people vote for political party that elected them, in order to keep their well-paid jobs. And then the argue started… as professor Tomasz Zawiła-Niedźwiecki – currently the Vice Director of State Forests responsible for the development -was sitting in the audience. He disagreed with me and said that the ‘corruption’ term is well defined, and I cannot use it regarding the situation in State Forests in Poland. Just to explain briefly my argument, as one type of corruption is political corruption and particularly something that is called ‘patronage‘. Based on Wikipedia the patronage is described in the following way:
“Patronage refers to favoring supporters, for example with government employment. This may be legitimate, as when a newly elected government changes the top officials in the administration in order to effectively implement its policy. It can be seen as corruption if this means that incompetent persons, as a payment for supporting the regime, are selected before more able ones. In non-democracies many government officials are often selected for loyalty rather than ability. They may be almost exclusively selected from a particular group (for example, Sunni Arabs in Saddam Hussein‘s Iraq, the nomenklatura in the Soviet Union, or the Junkers in Imperial Germany) that support the regime in return for such favors. A similar problem can also be seen in Eastern Europe, for example in Romania, where the government is often accused of patronage (when a new government comes to power it rapidly changes most of the officials in the public sector).”
I think he was wrong and I was right. Anyway, the problem is deeper as he publicly expressed his point of view, that he does not like the current situation. In other words, he was saying that it is not a corruption because of definition, but he does not like how it is (changes of top officials etc.). Being a vice-director, responsible for the company development and saying such words, in my opinion, is ridiculous and weak. If you are vice-director or any high official in State Forests, if you don’t like something, my recommendation is: Just change it! Simple, right?
I hope that audience had fun when we were arguing on the forum. After my presentation, people from the audience were forwarding me congratulations for my courage and saying what is the real situation like, as in their post-comunistic countries the situation is more or less the same. By the way, my Polish version of this blog, was established because of this political corruption as I couldn’t stand it anymore. After last governmental elections, during one weak most of 17 regional directors of State Forests were changed immediately without any reason, and later the change reached all crucial positions in the hierarchical structure of State Forests.
The opening ceremony of the IUFRO 2017 was very political in my opinion, full of ’empty formulas’. You can read below what ’empty formulas’ mean.
However, the best and most funny presentation for me was the one of Mr Göran Persson (former Prime Minister of Sweden, and currently Senior Advisor at Sveaskog – state forest enterprise in Sweden). He said something like:
“Although lobbyists have always prepared solutions, don’t ever lobby and never listen to lobbyists”
After these words, I had in my mind “But Göran, after all, you are the biggest forestry lobbist in Europe”. Then he said something like:
“I will not tell you exactly what you have to do [in the context of forestry and its future]”
And then he spend next 20 minutes of his presentation, exactly saying people what they should do 😛
Next, I took a part in the session entitled ‘Towards a sustainable European forest based bioeconomy’ , when I learned, from Dr Helga Pülzl from BOKU that there is a large number of policies regarding bioeconomy in Europe, but their implementation and impacts is not straightforward, and in different countries they try to prioritize different things regarding the forest sector. For instance, she mentioned that in Northern countries the focus is on secure industry competitiveness, while in Western towards optimization of resources use. Baltics focus on older notion of biotechnology and still a clear vision on bioeconomy is lacking, same as the role of forests in it. In addition, it seems that there is rather unclear role of forest stakeholders and citizens in forest based bioeconomy. Dr Pülzl mentioned NATURA 2000 and rural development as two not successfully introduced policies.
My favorite session, was organized by Dr Jacek Siry from University of Georgia ‘How forest investment science can support sustainable forest management?’. I enjoyed this session a lot, as I was able to learn, among others, more about origins of institutional timberland investing (prof. J. Caulfield), potential of timberland investments in Uruguay (prof. Virginia M. Olmos) and education of timberland investment professionals (prof. Bob Izlar). It was very nice to meet professor Bob Izlar and his colleagues from University of Georgia at the conference. We saw last time at the 2017 Timberland Investment Conference in Florida in March this year. It was also the time, when prof. Izlar gave an interview to Forest Monitor readers (click link below).
I was also a co-author of one presentation that was held on Wednesday at IUFRO congress. The session was entitled “Wood based fuels for transports – conditions for their market entry and impacts on the wood-using sector and climate change mitigation” and the title of our presentation (together with dr M. Kallio from LUKE and prof. Birger Solberg from NMBU) was “Prospects for producing liquid wood-based biofuels and their impacts on the forest sector in Europe”. In this research, we were using the EFI-GTM model to see what will be the consequences of producing biofuels on forest sector in Europe. Dr Kallio presented it very well, and luckily we did not have any political eager beaver in the room this time. So, luckily, I did not end in another scandal:)
Last but not least, IUFRO 2017 was a great chance to meet old friends from my times of studies in EUROFORESTER Master Program in Sweden. In the photo below, a small group of Euroforesters (in fact we had bigger representation, but to find each other at this huge congress was pretty challenging:)
Now, Marco will present you his insights from the congress.
Changing forest disturbance regimes, improving growth models and promoting forest resilience to climate change
My Monday morning’s train from Zurich was luckily on time. This allowed me start right away with the session Climate change adaptation in forest management: from applied science to implementation. I missed most of the interesting talks but I appreciated the panel discussion during which university professors, researchers and ecosystem managers exchanged ideas and opinions on how to better transfer scientific knowledge on management practices for climate change adaptation. On the one hand, academics such as Prof. Bugmann from ETH Zurich pointed out that scientists cannot “kill their career” by spending time talking to lumberjacks instead of focusing on publishing high-impact scientific papers. Unfortunately, that’s how the system is designed. To assure that scientific results are translated into sound management practices we need a third-party institution, such as IUFRO. In my opinion, research institutes and scientists themselves can also foster knowledge transfer, for example by better promoting their results. I am getting convinced that “a paper is not enough”. Published results should be blogged (that’s what we are trying to do with Forest Monitor!), summarized in easy-reading articles, sent to local journalists, etc. As scientists, we need the public to understand the importance of our work. But we also need to respect stakeholder’s view, use simpler language, build relationships and trust. And we need open-minded ecosystem managers to put into practice results from science.
After having met dozens of interesting people at the breaks, during the afternoon I attended a session on forest biodiversity and resistance to natural disturbances. This was quite interesting. Many talks showed how mixed forests can be more resistant to natural calamities such as wind storms, but this is not always the case. Herve Jactel from France showed that there are cases in which a more diverse forest can enhance the establishment of an insect invasion at large-spatial case (e.g., in the North-Eastern American temperate forests). On small-spatial scale, however, tree species diversity can reduce the spread of invasion. This is what ecologists call the “invasion paradox”.
I then followed the session Changing forest disturbance regimes: Patterns, consequences, and responses. I am getting more and more interested into the topic of natural disturbances such as windthrow, pest and pathogen outbreaks, fire, etc. Not just because it is related to a project I will soon start working on, but also because they represent the main source of uncertainty for forecasting forest futures. I personally liked the talk by William Keeton (University of Vermont) who did not focused on extreme, destructive events such as large fires but on how intermediate wind blowdown events influence structural complexity, carbon pools and successional dynamics. Results showed that stand complexity after these events remain the same, thus forest management regimes emulating small-scale disturbances might help in increasing resilience.
On Wednesday I had a poster presentation. I presented the results of my one and a half year postdoc project at WSL, where I investigated methodologies for disentangling mixing effects on tree growth using the Swiss National Forest Inventory data. We have recently published a paper on this, and I will soon dedicate an entire post in our blog (stay tuned!). Logistically, posters did not have a great visibility during the congress: the poster room was located into another university building so there was no change to stumble upon an interesting poster unless to go there on purpose. Luckily my colleagues from WSL who had a talk the day before made me a bit of advertise, so during the breaks I had quite some people coming to see my poster and discuss with me.
Wednesday afternoon I went to the session Integrating climate change, disturbances and diversity effects into growth models: from understanding ecological processes to predicting forest growth and yield, which was the one in which my poster presentation was embedded. After a nice series of talks focused mostly on recent developments of process-based and empirical forest models, I had the chance to give a flash talk on my poster. Differently from Rafal, this was not followed by any scandal, as everyone in the audience agreed on the importance to consider the different effect of species mixture in individual tree growth functions!
On Thursday I attended the keynote plenary session. Werner Kurz from the Canadian Forest Services and IPCC talked about the potential contribution of the forest sector to climate change mitigation. He gave a lot of numbers on carbon emissions, highlighting the role of world’s forests as carbon sink (11.6 GtCO2/yr). Nothing new, but a great update on the potential of the forest sector for mitigating climate change and possible solutions to meet the Paris agreements. He presented the 10 steps towards forest sector mitigation (see photo below), including grow more trees to increase carbon stock, maximize carbon retention in long-lived harvested products (e.g., buildings), use wood to maximize avoided emissions, anticipate climate change impacts and adaptation objectives. He also stated that since the Paris Agreement’s goals can only be reached with net negative emissions, “the forest sector has both the opportunity and responsibility to contribute to reductions in atmospheric GHG emissions“. He concluded with quite a powerful sentence that is still stuck into my mind “We have only three solutions against global changes: mitigation, adaptation or suffering. The choice is ours“.
On Thursday afternoon there were many interesting sessions in parallel, but I decided to attended the one entitled Promoting forest resilience, adaptive capacity, and ecosystem services through diverse forest ecosystems organized by Jurgen Bauhus from the University of Freiburg. Klaus Puettman from Oregon State University talked about variability and interactions across spatial and temporal scales when defining silvicultural treatments to increase the provision of multiple ecosystem goods and services while Frederic Doyon from the University of Quebec focused on a concrete cases study in Eastern Canadian forests to evaluate multiple forest trajectories and management treatments for maximizing resistance and resilience. The session organizer, Jurgen Bauhus talked about the ecological stability of mixed-species forests. He nicely explained why species-diverse forests is often (but not always!) an important option to adapt forests to uncertain future disturbances. If you are interest on this topic, you can read Chapter 7 of the newly printed Springer book Mixed Species Forests – Ecology and Management.
Similarly as for Rafal, for me was a double opportunity: meet past colleagues and get to know people who I only knew by name or from whom I only read papers. Talking face to face is hundred times more efficient than than emailing when it is about exchanging ideas and discussing potential future collaborations. Although due to the size of the conference, I sometimes felt a bit lost and frustrated because of the impossibility to follow everything, I am very glad to have taken a break from the office for attending the IUFRO 2017. Looking forward for the IUFRO Congress 2019! (not just because it will be in Brazil, though).
Marco and Rafał
Main photo: Forest Monitor bloggers – Marco and Rafal – at IUFRO 2017 Congress.