PEN-CAFoRR Challenges, Objectives, and Impact
Europe is characterized by a wide range of forest ecosystems at different levels of degradation. The lack of a common European perspective on restoration of degraded forest ecosystems and reforestation following harvesting represents a real challenge in this time of uncertainty of future environmental conditions, increasing frequency of extreme weather events and forest fires, and far-reaching social demands from forests. Decisions made today on forest restoration will have consequences for decades, given the life span of individual tree species. Additionally, the emergence of novel ecosystems will challenge current understanding of sustainable management practices. Whether to resist or accommodate novel vegetation assemblages will depend on whether novel forests can continue to provide socially and ecologically acceptable levels of ecosystem services. Different political and socio-economic drivers and regulatory approaches have led to a wide variety of forest management approaches and goals at the operational level. Conservatism of forestry authorities and foresters at the operational level can hinder progress in meeting global change challenges. Most of the knowledge gained by forest restoration and management research is local, and although in some cases the local transfer of knowledge to operational forestry is done well, transfer at a regional and continental levels is inadequate.
PEN-CAFoRR (Pan-European Network for Climate Adaptive Forest Restoration and Reforestation) Action will address the following research questions, which are fundamental for climate adaptive forest restoration and reforestation success (Figure 1): 1) setting the goals; 2) selecting the best forest reproductive material (FRM) regarding origin, composition, as well as genetic and biodiversity conservation; 3) determining the appropriate attributes and methods to produce targeted FRM of good quality and sufficient quantity to meet society demands; 4) applying the best available establishment techniques of pre-planting site preparation, seeding, and planting; and 5) developing of post-planting protection and silviculture until trees reach an autonomous stage to promote resilience and adaptation of new forests to future challenges.
The complexity of forest restoration and multifunctionality depends on multiple facets of (i) the diversity desired, (ii) the level of degradation, (iii) the socio-economic demands, (iv) the legislative restrictions and (v) public expectations. Any climate adaptive restoration and reforestation program will have to target either a sustainable restored or a new ecosystem that will provide products and services to society for the decades to come. The best way to achieve a long-term success is to define realistic restoration and reforestation goals at the landscape level, which considers the diverse ecological and socio-economic circumstances of the region; while applying the most appropriate techniques at the site level to meet the goals. Setting the goals is limited by legislative restrictions, faces traditional and conservative ways of thinking, and needs to consider genetic aspects to increase resilience and productivity (in terms of products and services. Based on well-defined goals, appropriate techniques can be applied to increase the likelihood of short- to medium-term success. Given the enormous technical and social challenges, there is an imminent need for the exchange of already existing information within Europe, as well as joined efforts that will help to change paradigms, to improve techniques, and to standardize terms.