The International Day of Forests is celebrated on 21 March. Today forest health matters more than ever considering the increasing tendencies and scales of forest damages and the importance of climate change mitigation and adaptation. Building on a constructive cooperation of over three decades, FOREST EUROPE and ICP Forests organised a webinar on the topic. The two processes invited stakeholders representing political decision-making, science and practice.
All participants agreed on the fact that sound forest health monitoring is key to maintain and foster forest services and goods. It also helps to minimize forest risks and to enhance forest adaptation at the national, European and global scales. Hence, forest monitoring needs to be constantly developed to provide the efficient and comprehensive information, which forest-related stakeholders and society need in times of rapid developments and climate change.
In a cross-stakeholder dialogue, the participants highlighted the importance of data completeness and harmonization, particularly when deriving forest health information across regions and nations. Based on the dynamic nature of forest disturbances, such as wildfires and storms, the importance of timely monitoring data while maintaining data acquisition efforts was additionally pointed out. In this context, the potential of innovative monitoring technologies and applications is not fully unleashed. The further incorporation of air- and satellite-borne as well as close-range remote sensing applications, in addition to terrestrial monitoring applications were identified as particularly promising innovative monitoring solutions. Furthermore, the potential of individual monitoring indicators was underlined to further improve forest health monitoring, such as tree mortality.
Besides technical developments, the general understanding of forest health was addressed. Panelists shared the opinion that forest ecosystem health is an important reference level along with tree health. The relationships of different forest services (e.g. biodiversity) and attributes will likely gain importance to monitor, assess and report a comprehensive picture of forest health. Another conclusion was that the purpose and intended data usage is crucial when aiming towards comprehensive and target-group-specific forest health monitoring.
In addition, case studies from Finland, Romania and international studies provided valuable insights into lessons learnt, information transfer across the science-policy-practitioner interface and proved the many application potentials and benefits of forest health monitoring data.
Stakeholders also expressed future needs to develop the monitoring of forest health in changing times. Monitoring of forest-related climate change impacts, forest resilience and adaptation, and proactive forest risk assessments were prioritized. The promotion of long-term commitments, data and resource availability, transboundary and cross-stakeholder cooperation are paramount to address the needs related to forest health monitoring in the future.
In the framework of the pan-European forest risk knowledge mechanism (FoRISK), FOREST EUROPE will continue to bring forest-related stakeholders to the table, facilitate and promote knowledge exchange related to forest health involving scientists, decision-makers, practitioners and society.
Because we need more healthy forests for a healthy future!