Speech on behalf of the National Forest Board (ONF) - Albert Maillet takes the floor©ONF
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Viewpoints and expectations from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food - Elizabeth Van de Maele takes the floor©ONF
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Viewpoints and expectations from the Ministry of Ecological and Inclusive Transition - Catherine Cumunel takes the floor©ONF
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Speech on behalf of the French Environment and Energy Management Agency - Laurence Galsomies takes the floor©ONF
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Colloquium organisation and programme - Manuel Nicolas (ONF) takes the floor©ONF
The history of forest monitoring and the RENECOFOR Network - Christian Barthod (CGEDD) and Guy Landmann (GIP ECOFOR) take the floor©ONF
The European networks for forest monitoring of so-called levels 1 and 2 and their French extensions - the systematic network for forest health monitoring (16 x 16 km) and the RENECOFOR network - were respectively put into place in 1988/89 and 1992. Today, 25-30 years later, they are still operational. The initial concern over a possible massive decline in European forests due to atmospheric pollution ("acid rain"), which reached a peak in the 1980s, was already subsiding in 1985/86 thanks to regional networks which had been set up in several countries (for example, the "blue network" in France) and to national monitoring networks (though scales varied greatly). However, networks which were both representative of and comparable among countries were lacking. The two European networks were set up thanks largely to:
- A "win-win" agreement with the UN programme for European forest monitoring, "ICP Forests" (the International Co-operative Programme on Assessment and Monitoring of Air Pollution Effects on Forests under the Convention on Long-range Trans-boundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)), (aka the Geneva Programme, piloted by Germany and the European Commission;
- The dynamism created by the first Ministerial Conference on Forest Protection in Europe (MCPFE) (Strasbourg, 1990).
In France, Maruice Bonneau, then head of the DEFORPA (FORest DEcline and Atmospheric Pollution) research programme, was convinced that a long-term forest monitoring programme which was compatible with research procedures was of interest. He pushed for the creation of the French intensive monitoring network (RENECOFOR) while simultaneously participating in European Commission working groups called to put the political commitments made into practice, despite often seriously diverging national approaches. France's decision to place the management of the new network into the hands of a state forest management service (the ONF) is unique in Europe, though this decision certainly underlies, at least in part, the programme's success.
The context has changed considerably in the last 25 years:
- Today, atmospheric pollution has become a less pressing issue compared to climate change, carbon sequestration, biodiversity and ecosystem services.
- Forest Europe (previously MCPFE) now promotes using indicators of sustainability and is militating for the creating of a worldwide governing body for forest management, a far cry from the concrete concerns of the first European conferences.
- The European Commission has halted all direct financial support for forest monitoring since 2006 and is now re-centring its efforts on concerns which are deemed more strategic and more sensitive (FLEGT and REDD programmes most notably).
- The European Environment Agency (EEA) is progressively extending its reach whereas the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) never fully shouldered its potentially central role in long-term forest monitoring.
- Forest environmental monitoring has been reinforced in France: (i) the National Forest Inventory has considerably increased its potential in ecological monitoring by adopting a new inventory protocol and by better valorising its data; (ii) special experimental sites for (very) intensive monitoring have been set up starting in 1995 within various research establishments, with currently 18 existing sites (SOERE FORET).
In this highly changing context, it is quite remarkable that the ICP Forests programme has remained relatively stable for 33 years. The vast majority of the European countries are still convinced of the pertinence of the level-1 and -2 approaches and continue to fund the programme. However, it is legitimate to ask whether this programme can adapt to fundamental changes, if necessary, and this is likely to be the case.
In 1990, the Ministerial Conference in Strasbourg listed the following considerations in Resolution 1, covering a broad range of concerns (listed in order of priority): atmospheric pollution, forest fires, climate warming, severe climatic disturbance events, soil erosion, pests and diseases, browsing damage, over- and under-exploitation and finally, the interactions among these phenomena. Three years later, at the second MCPFE conference, the European Union and its member states committed to "evaluating, developing and coordinating forest monitoring activities to better understand the large-scale spatial variations and the dynamics of change resulting from climate change." This resolution may have been taken somewhat too early in view of the state of the knowledge on climate change at the time; however, it was already a little too late because the level 2 networks which had already been established.
Twenty-five years on, climate change has become a major concern in long-term forest monitoring, and it is now important to analyse in depth the contributions RENECOFOR can provide over the next 25 years. The potential opportunities are many. The current network of monitoring sites, distributed throughout virtually the entire country, reflects "standard" silvicultural regimes and avoids extreme site conditions; this gives the network definite potential but also carries limitations when climate change has become a top priority. One option may be to create new plots with borderline conditions (at niche edges) and contrasting silvicultural regimes. This re-orientation could be gradual, taking place as plots are renewed, while maintaining a certain flexibility in the system. Complementarity with other monitoring systems should, of course, always be kept in mind. Though leveraging European-level support is uncertain, there is every interest in encouraging reflection within the ICP Forests programme and in involving the EEA.
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Reflections and current stakes at the European scale - Annemarie Bastrup-Birk (European Environment Agency – EEA) takes the floor©ONF
In Europe, forest cover is considerable (more than 40% of the total surface area). Forests are precious ecosystems which provide a multiplicity of ecosystem services linked to ecology, economy and society as a whole (for example, protecting soils from erosion, preserving biodiversity, producing wood and other products such as berries, mushrooms and cork). Forests also provide jobs, particularly in rural areas, and have an important place in European culture.
Forests face many threats including intensive human land use (urbanization and infrastructure), natural disturbances (diseases, droughts) and human-induced disturbances (atmospheric pollution, fires). Climatic changes are the forthcoming challenge for our European forests and will affect their distribution ranges and growth. These changes threaten the future existence of our forests and jeopardize the services they provide society. We must protect our forests to improve, maintain and restore their ecosystem functions.
The European Union has no common forest policy. However, certain European policies and initiatives in favour of the forest and the forest sector have extended their impact in the last decade. Forest ecosystems attracted attention during the application of the Habitats Directive and other protective laws such as the EU Biodiversity Strategy. Forest management, conservation and use are crucial concerns when negotiating common policies such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and strategies to adapt to climate change, to develop a bio-economy and set out common energy policies. Unfortunately, the use of various different political means often leads to fragmentary decisions catering to sectorial interests when new objectives are set outside of the forest sector. A good example is the conflict which has arisen as a result of a compromise between biodiversity conservation and biomass extraction for energy production. There is a growing risk that forest ecosystems will not be sufficiently taken into account in the EU's political agenda. Coherently reconciling the different stakes involved is a real challenge for the numerous European projects impacting the forests in the E.U.
The E.U. Forest Strategy (2013) hopes to complement the initiatives taken by the member states with European-wide initiatives. The Strategy promotes a holistic vision, supported by research and development, of a multi-functional forest simultaneously contributing to rural development, businesses, the environment, the production of bio-energies and to climate protection. Currently, member states contribute to several different international reports related to forests. The E.U. could take on the role of monitoring and reporting on the state and development of European forests, could anticipate trends and worldwide challenges and adopt the role of coordinator. The challenge is to integrate and standardize forest data, reduce the heterogeneity of current forest information systems and improve key statistical parameters (for example, surface areas, forest composition, carbon stocks). National Forest Inventories could become the fundamental basis for flexible responses to requests for data at the national, European and global levels. This in turn would significantly enhance the quality of the reporting at the European level (as for the LULUCF - Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry -at the UNFCCC - United Nations Climate Change Conference). In addition, forest stakeholders such as the private forest sector and environmental groups also have specific needs for information about European forests.