Archive for the ‘IUFRO Spotlight’ Category

IUFRO Spotlight #14 – Wildfire projected to spread like, well, wildfire

Wildfire projected to spread like, well, wildfire

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Boreal wildfire, Saskatchewan, Canada (Photo by Bill de Groot, Natural Resources Canada – Canadian Forest Service)

Boreal wildfire, Saskatchewan, Canada (Photo by Bill de Groot, Natural Resources Canada – Canadian Forest Service)

A recently published study: Global Wildland Fire Season Severity in the 21st Century, indicates that in coming decades, conventional approaches to wildfire management may no longer be effective.

It appears in a Forest Ecology and Management journal special issue entitled The Mega-fire reality, published by Elsevier. The study is a first global review that shows the extent of the increasing length of the fire season and the increasing fire weather severity.

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IUFRO Spotlight #13 – Urban Park Perks’ Research Rounded Up & Rated

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Urban Park Perks’ Research Rounded Up & Rated

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Floodplain forests in Leipzig, Germany. Photo Matilda Annerstedt.

Floodplain forests in Leipzig, Germany. Photo Matilda Annerstedt.

Green areas and parks provide many benefits to urban spaces. That’s what people have said for years – but without an awful lot of evidence to back it up.

Now there is an evidence-based report, Benefits of Urban Parks: A systematic review, offering some support to that assertion.

The recent study, one the authors believe is a first-of-its-kind, draws conclusions based on green space related research published in a number of top-level scientific publications.

It offers a comprehensive and critical assessment that evaluates the strength of the evidence supporting a series of park benefits.

Across the globe, the report will be a useful tool for planners, policy-makers and politicians, especially at the municipal level, giving them a better foundation on which to base decisions for building or preserving urban parks. At the same time green space managers can use the findings to argue for parks based on a particular range of benefits (while supporting research in some of the less-explored areas) and researchers can begin to address some of the identified research gaps.

Already, green space managers in cities such as Helsinki, Oslo and New York have informed the authors that they will begin using the report immediately.

The report finds a significant amount of evidence to back up claims that green spaces do benefit urban biodiversity, local cooling and increased property values, as well as some evidence – ranging from moderate to strong – that indicates direct and indirect health benefits.

For example, in terms of health benefits in the studies they analyzed, the authors found strong evidence linking urban parks and physical activity, moderate-to-strong evidence indicating a link to decreased obesity and a moderate amount of evidence supporting findings of reduced stress and improved self-reported health and mental health.

The authors also noted reduced stroke mortality, reduction of ADHD symptoms and reduced cardiovascular/respiratory morbidity were indicated in respective single high-quality studies – not enough on which to base any conclusions, but certainly pointing to a need for more studies in those areas.

For other benefits, such as tourism promotion and water regulation, the evidence is weaker. The authors note this does not necessarily mean those benefits do not exist; just that more research is also needed in those particular subject areas before any conclusions can be reached.

The International Federation of Parks and Recreation Administration (Ifpra) assigned this study. It is an international organization that, among other things, promotes the benefits of parks, recreation, cultural and leisure services, including urban parks. The organizaton wanted to ensure that its promotion is based on sound evidence. So a research study team of four, representing three different institutions, three different disciplines, and four nationalities was set up. They spent most of last year undertaking a systematic review of the scientific evidence for urban park benefits

These four authors are: Dr. Cecil C. Konijnendijk van den Bosch of the University of Copenhagen and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; Dr. Matilda Annerstedt, of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; Sreetheran Maruthaveeran, M.Sc, of the University of Copenhagen and Forest Research Institute Malaysia; and Dr. Anders B. Nielsen of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. They all work at IUFRO Member Organizations and two of them – Cecil C. Konijnendijk van den Bosch and Sreetheran Maruthaveeran – are Deputy Coordinators in IUFRO’s Urban Forestry Research Group 6.07.00.

The full report can be found at:


Media Contact

Gerda Wolfrum: +43 1 877 0151 17 or wolfrum(at)


Related Links

Publication: Evidence-based report: Benefits of Urban Parks: A systematic review:

IUFRO Spotlights main page,

IUFRO Spotlight #12 – Putting production from peatlands in perspective

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Putting production from peatlands in perspective

A minerotrophic mire changing towards an ombrotrophic bog, Finland. Photo: J. Päivänen

A minerotrophic mire changing towards an ombrotrophic bog, Finland. Photo: J. Päivänen

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By Palle Madsen (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
Coordinator of IUFRO Research Group 1.01.00 – Temperate and boreal silviculture

Policy makers and forest managers in the boreal and temperate regions now have a new tool to assist them in making climate-smart and environmentally responsible peatland forestry decisions for the future.

Persons involved in peatland management can benefit from Peatland Ecology and Forestry – a Sound Approach, a new very well-illustrated book that gathers an impressive array of research from various countries and regions.

By making use of the knowledge collected in this book, forest managers should achieve higher growth and yield and greater output of other goods and services from peatlands already claimed for forestry; and improved site selection for various purposes, including mire conservation.

The publication came about in response to requests for a comprehensive source of reading material on the subject from policy makers, students and others interested in managing peatlands and mires.

Juhani Päivänen of the University of Helsinki Department of Forest Sciences and Björn Hånell of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Department of Forest Ecology and Management collaborated on the work. For them, it was a labour of love. Their work was unpaid and done in their free time.

It takes a broad scope approach – from basic ecological principles to land classification and applied peatland forestry – based on common knowledge and the most recent reported findings from more than 900 references.

The heart of the matter is this: Northern peatlands and mires are an important resource that can be utilized for forestry purposes. But that resource must be utilized in a responsible fashion.

Peatlands are major storers of carbon. However, when they are drained and used – normally for agriculture, grazing and forestry – they become significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

But they can, and should, be used. So it is obvious that making the best possible choices and decisions when those lands are used, can only help.

The contents of this publication will assist those interested in these issues to increase their knowledge of peatland ecology, and to come to a better, more comprehensive understanding of responsible land use that includes improved peatland forestry management as well as wise mire conservation.

The book offers:

  • a common language and terminology on issues for practitioners, policy makers and students;
  • a broad and detailed description of pristine and drained mires;
  • guidelines for classification and management of peatlands; and
  • overall, it illustrates that peatland forests represent a renewable resource that can be responsibly managed based on ecological principles.

For book orders and enquiries regarding Peatland Ecology and Forestry – a Sound Approach, contact either:
Finland: forest-office(at) or Sweden: forecoman(at)

Also visit:


Media Contact

Palle Madsen: +45 35 331713 or pam(at)
Gerda Wolfrum: +43 1 877 0151 17 or wolfrum(at)


Related Links

Peatland Ecology and Forestry – a Sound Approach:

IUFRO Division 1  Silviculture:

IUFRO Spotlights main page,

IUFRO Spotlight #11 – Power, discrimination and gender equality

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Power, discrimination and gender equality

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Non timber forests product collection – Stefan Jonsson

By Tuija Sievänen (Finnish Forest Research Institute),
Coordinator of IUFRO Division 6 – Social Aspects of Forests and Forestry

A new publication takes a long, hard look at – and dispels some of the myths about – the issue of gender equality as it relates to development and environmental governance of the forests.

The author, Seema Arora-Jonsson of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Coordinator of the IUFRO Working Party dealing with gender research in forestry, focuses on groups in India, which is widely recognized as a highly gender-biased country and in Sweden, a country seen as highly gender-equal.

Dr. Arora-Jonsson makes the point that simply including women on committees and other governance mechanisms is not enough and can, in fact, work to perpetuate existing inequalities.

She calls for more creative policymaking that recognizes and addresses the wider social context in which the policies are meant to be implemented.

Her findings indicate that some committees involved with forest governance add female members simply to pay lip-service to the concept of gender equality – i.e. having a female member or members automatically makes a neutral “people’s” committee.

Other committees, even those organized by people honestly concerned about gender equality, often see women members as a monolithic presence. A man who is invited or appointed to sit on a committee is usually seen as representing a certain interest – community, development, government, environment, forest management, etc.
When a woman sits on the same committee, she is seen as representing women – all women and all women’s viewpoints.

Dr. Arora-Jonsson noted there is an assumption that women committee members will act as one, and differences of opinion among them are seen as signs of weakness or an inability to co-operate. Lack of agreement among men, on the other hand, is seen simply as a difference in vision.

And, referring to another of her articles on gender issues, Dr. Arora-Jonsson notes that when climate change is thrown into the forest governance mix, conventional wisdom puts women in one of two camps. In developing countries – primarily in the southern hemisphere – women are seen as vulnerable; in the north, as virtuous.

In the south women are seen as victims, more vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change than are men. In the north, women are seen to be more concerned about climate change and environmental stewardship because men in the north pollute more – as an example, some research indicates that men tend, among other things, to drive more.

Focusing on the vulnerability/virtue issue, the author points out, can simply reinforce existing biases, deflect attention from actual inequalities in decision-making and can lead to an increase in women’s responsibility to care for their environments with no corresponding increase in resources or rewards.

Gender, Arora-Jonsson says, is often correlated with a rather nebulous “larger good”. But seldom are there questions of how the larger good is determined and by whom. To really understand and govern forests, the author maintains, one has to go beyond the trees and look at the social contexts and interrelated issues of development and democracy.

Success in terms of gender equality is unlikely, she says, unless questions of power and discrimination are dealt with.

The publication: Gender, Development and Environmental Governance can be found at:


Media Contact

Tuija Sievänen: +358 10 2112246 or tuija.sievanen(at)
Gerda Wolfrum: +43 1 877 0151 17 or wolfrum(at)


Related Links

Gender, Development and Environmental Governance:

IUFRO Division 6 Social Aspects of Forests and Forestry:

IUFRO Spotlights main page,

IUFRO Spotlight #10 – For Peat’s Sake

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For Peat’s Sake

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Wildfire in Alberta, Canada 2011. Photo by Stephanie Koroscil

By Björn Hånell, Coordinator, IUFRO Division 1 (SLU, Sweden), and
Jean-Michel Carnus, Coordinator, IUFRO Division 8 (INRA, France)

Forest fires are a persistent and growing problem around the world. While fire certainly pro

duces some ecological benefits, those are arguably being outweighed by the increasing frequency, size and intensity of fires as the planet warms.

In a given year, forest and grassland fires can be extensive – burning 350- 450 million ha (an area larger than India); expensive – costing many billions of dollars to combat (in Canada alone fire management costs can reach $800 million a year); and lethal – a recent study attributed almost 340,000 deaths annually to respiratory and other causes related to the impact of forest/bush fires.

Making the situation more worrisome are predictions that these fire events could triple in the next 50-75 years.

A recent Canadian Forest Service bulletin: Peatland Fires and Carbon Emissions (Frontline Express 50 noted that some fire researchers from Canada, the U.S. and Russia – where fire in those countries’ boreal forests is a significant activity – have begun looking more closely into boreal peatlands.

Peatland ecosystems cover only 2-3% of the earth’s land surface, but in the boreal they make up 20-30% of the forest region and average 20-30% of the area burned annually.

Those peatlands store an estimated 30% of the world’s terrestrial carbon – some 300 billion metric tons. Typically they are fairly wet areas, but when they dry and burn – usually in severe drought years or from some drainage activities – they have the potential to flip from carbon sink to carbon source as they release huge amounts of greenhouse gases.

How significant are the emissions from peatland fires? In 1997 in Indonesia peatland fires released the equivalent of 20-40% of all annual global fossil fuel emissions. And Indonesia’s peatlands are dwarfed by the peatland reserves in Canada, Alaska and Russia.

Peatland fires tend to produce a lot of smoke and can be difficult to extinguish. In the north they can continue to smoulder stubbornly beneath the winter snow and then burst into flame again in a subsequent year.

Smoke, as noted above, also makes human health a major consideration in peatland fires. Smoke is toxic to begin with, but peatlands contain about 15 times as much mercury – a serious toxin – as nearby upland forests. The mercury-laden smoke can travel far. Recently in Russia, smog permeated Moscow from peat fires many kilometers distant and, within the last few months, air quality advisories were being issued in parts of British Columbia on Canada’s west coast as smoke from Siberian peat fires pushed ozone levels to neverbefore- seen numbers.

While quite a bit is known about the function and behavior of fire in the boreal forest, much of the research there has been on upland forest areas. By comparison, much less is known about the vulnerability of boreal peatlands to fire.

One of the key areas being investigated in the boreal peatlands is focused on developing a peat moisture code. By getting a better handle on peatlands moisture content, researchers will know the potential for burning, when it might occur and how deep it will burn. That will help preparation and mitigation efforts.

A report by J.M Waddington (McMaster Centre for Climate Change, McMaster University) and colleagues suggests that such a code can be developed – with modifications to adapt to specific peat types and issues – within the framework of the existing Canadian Forest Fire Weather Index (FWI) System.

The FWI System (or portions of it) has been adopted – with adaptations for local conditions – by several countries as a fire management tool: New Zealand, Fiji, Portugal, Spain and several U.S. states, among them.

There are six components to the FWI System. Three are fire behavior indices – related to rate of fire spread; available fuel; and frontal fire intensity.

The other three components, those most germane to this topic, relate to fuel moisture. They are numeric ratings of the moisture content of litter and other fine fuels; the average moisture content of loosely compacted organic layers; and the average moisture of deep, compact organic layers.

The ratings give indications of factors ranging from ease of ignition and flammability of fine fuel, to the amount of smoldering in deep duff layers and large logs.

Wildfire in Alberta, Canada 2011. Photo by Stephanie Koroscil

Peatland drainage – for industrial operations, peat extraction and intensive forest operations – increases productivity

but, by definition, dries the land. That is another area of concern in the boreal peatlands.

A recent study by M.R. Turetsky (University of Guelph) and associates found that drainage doubled rates of organic matter accumulation in the soil, but also increased carbon losses ninefold during wildfire.

This led the authors to conclude that interactions between peatland drainage and fire are likely to cause longterm carbon emissions to far exceed rates of carbon uptake, diminishing the northern peatland carbon sink.

The full Waddington paper: Examining the utility of the Canadian Forest Fire Weather Index System in boreal peatlands can be found at:

The full Turetsky et al paper: Experimental drying intensifies burning and carbon losses in a northern peatland can be found at:


Media Contact

Björn Hånell: +46-90-7868297 or bjorn.hanell(at)
Jean-Michel Carnus: +33-5-57122865 or jean-michel.carnus(at)
Gerda Wolfrum: +43 1 877 0151 17 or wolfrum(at)


Related Links

Peatland fires and carbon emissions:

Examining the utility of the Canadian Forest Fire Weather Index System in boreal peatlands:

Experimental drying intensifies burning and carbon losses in a northern peatland:

IUFRO Division 1 Silviculture:

IUFRO Spotlights main page,

IUFRO Spotlight #9 – Self Interest Can Conserve Forests

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Self Interest Can Conserve Forests

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By Daniela Kleinschmit (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Products), Coordinator of IUFRO Division 9 Forest Policy and Economics

Legality verification – “Certification Lite”, so to speak – may offer the impetus for a workable system of responsible, sustainable global forest governance that previous efforts have been unable to accomplish. That’s one of several hypotheses put forward in a paper by Benjamin Cashore and Michael Stone of Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

As their research continues, they will determine more specifically how many countries will be able to use this to improve their forest governance. Though, at present, they note that everyone – the world over – gains when forest protection is improved in key countries.

Legality verification is not a panacea but, by offering an opportunity that rewards, rather than putting a strain on, participating firms – a criticism that has been leveled at other more stringent certification systems – it can be a very workable and effective governance method.

It is less onerous than certification in that it weeds illegal forest products out of global supply chains simply by verifying that the timber was legally harvested and that there has been compliance with legislation related to various aspects of forest management. And, the authors postulate, there is the self-interest factor – for both producers and governments – that will add traction to the process.

For producers, certification efforts tend to push costs onto them. Legality verification, on the other hand, promises to increase the payback to producers of legally harvested products who are otherwise forced to compete with lower-cost illegal products that push down prices.

And the authors believe that governments, especially in developing countries, are going to be more likely to support legality verification when the standards focus on activities that they have a pre-existing self-interest to pursue.

In a country where, for example, payments may have been made “under the table” to avoid government regulations, governments that can now point to independent assessments – legality verification – that speak to the legitimacy of their operations, will benefit from this demonstration of their commitment to good forest governance and be viewed as a more attractive trading partner.

However, the authors also see some potential downsides to the legality verification system. In developing countries, when legality compliance is equated to meeting all relevant environmental and social legislation in a given country, it will foster the “Delaware Effect” – a race to the bottom. Standards will be set low intentionally to attract or retain global capital. And, given economic globalization, many scholars see this as an inevitable outcome.

(The Delaware Effect is so-named because of the State of Delaware’s rather lax company law. A disproportionate number of companies have incorporated there, taking advantage of the relaxed standards.)

However, the authors also postulate that, given legality verification’s intertwining of public and private regulations that first require a defined system of global supply chain tracking, the Delaware Effect could become a springboard to a more stringent level of regulations.

That “ratcheting up” – the California Effect, in which highly regulated firms have allied themselves with environmental groups to increase rules and standards on less regulated competitors – could then occur. This, they suggest, could reinforce, rather than detract from, global certification and good forest governance efforts.

All of which helps explain the title of their paper: Does California Need Delaware? Revisiting Vogel’s ‘Trading Up’ Hypothesis Through the Case of Legality Verification.

The “California-Delaware” paper delves more deeply into some of the questions raised in an earlier publication of theirs that first assessed the emergence of legality verification as a forest issue.

The current paper is one output from a multi-year analysis Cashore and his associates are undertaking to better understand the potential of legality verification – across various governance levels – to address and promote responsible forest management.

The full paper can be found at:


Media Contact

Daniela Kleinschmit: +46-18-6722493 or daniela.kleinschmit(at)
Gerda Wolfrum: +43 1 877 0151 17 or wolfrum(at)


Related Links

Publication: Can legality verification rescue global forest governance?: Analyzing the potential of public and private policy intersection to ameliorate forest challenges in Southeast Asia,

IUFRO Division 9 Forest Policy and Economics:

IUFRO Spotlights main page,

IUFRO Spotlight #8 – Combatting Climate Change Comprehensively

Combatting Climate Change Comprehensively

By Ben Chikamai (Kenya Forestry Research Institute)
IUFRO Board Member, Kenya

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Degraded forest landscape in the Offinso District, Ghana. The original high forest cover has been modified through over-exploitation of wood resources, agriculture activities, and establishment of human settlements. (Photo by Ernest Foli, FORNESSA)

African forest policy makers and governments could benefit by using a recent study as a template to help bring climate change adaptation into the mainstream of national development strategies.

The study, conducted in two forest-dependent areas in Africa, emphasizes cross-sectoral planning – recognizing and incorporating interacting priorities, such as agriculture, health, forestry, land-use planning, water resources, energy, education, etc. – as a key element in implementing any effective climate change adaptation strategy.

Forests can play an important role in achieving climate change adaptation goals in Africa. But sustainable forest management decisions alone can’t accomplish that. Policy decisions – for forests as well as other resource areas – must complement one another. At present, impacts from some of those other sectors may actually be threatening the forests.

There are a number of pressures on Africa’s forests – agricultural expansion and forest over-use among them. Reducing non-climatic pressures, in a logical, prioritized manner, can help reduce the vulnerability of forest ecosystems. That’s crucial because many people in Africa are highly dependent on forest goods and services. Those people are, and will continue to be, particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Improving the capability of forest dependent communities to adapt to a changing climate will reduce that vulnerability.

The study: Enhancing Adaptation of Forests and People in Africa – Development of Pilot Cases for Selected Forest Ecosystems in Ghana and Malawi, examined forest issues related to climate change in selected areas of those countries. The authors, E.G. Foli and S. Makungwa, worked in those specific areas because they represent typical examples of the ecological and socio-economic situation prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa, so the findings could also be applied to countries in West, Central, Southern, and parts of East, Africa.

Among other findings, the study confirmed a general trend of increasing mean annual temperatures and a decline in mean annual rainfall. In the Ghana pilot area this has resulted in forest loss due to wildfire; a decline in the availability of non-timber forest products; reductions in agricultural crop yields; and declining potable water supplies and the associated risk of water-borne diseases. In the Lake Chilwa area of Malawi, in addition to declining potable water supply and its associated disease risks, there has also been poor productivity on tree farms; loss of indigenous trees in communal areas, riverbanks and surrounding forest reserves; a decline in agricultural productivity; and declining fish catch from the lake.

While the study noted how changing climatic conditions can adversely affect livelihoods, health and food security in those communities, it also noted examples of locally initiated adaptation strategies developed to mitigate the impacts of the changing climate. By compiling existing information, including the needs of stakeholders in the various inter-related resource areas, consulting with local communities and assessing and evaluating each project site, enhanced and concrete adaptation measures for the pilot areas were developed.

Then, a priority setting exercise was carried out to identify appropriate and relevant adaptation strategies and activities that would best serve the communities. Similar techniques could be used across a much wider area, the authors say, but that will require political will, financial commitment, and an integrated multi-sectoral – even trans-national – approach. It’s a challenge, they agree, but one that must be faced.

The full study can be found at:


Media Contact

Ben Chikamai: +254-20-2386355 or director(at)
Gerda Wolfrum: +43 1 877 0151 17 or wolfrum(at)


Related Links

Study: Enhancing Adaptation of Forests and People in Africa – Development of Pilot Cases for Selected Forest Ecosystems in Ghana and Malawi,

IUFRO Spotlights main page,


Photo Credits

Degraded forest landscape in the Offinso District, Ghana. The original high forest cover has been modified through over-exploitation of wood resources, agriculture activities, and establishment of human settlements.
Photo by Ernest Foli, FORNESSA

IUFRO Spotlight #7 – Setting an ‘Earthy’ Standard

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Setting an ‘Earthy’ Standard

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By Jean-Michel Carnus, Coordinator, IUFRO Division 8
(INRA, France)

Since 2003, 26 European specialists in humus forms have been working to develop a standardized system of classifying the condition and configuration of topsoil layers adapted to European ecological conditions.

The result of their work could become an international reference, of which, none exists today.

Studies have shown that soils store more carbon than terrestrial vegetation and the atmosphere combined, and also that soil organic matter plays a key role in the global carbon cycle as it stores huge amounts of carbon and thus counters global warming.

It is also known that some soil organic matter remains stable for thousands of years while other soil organic matter degrades quickly and releases carbon into the atmosphere thereby reinforcing the greenhouse effect.

So, as the earth’s climate warms and concerns increase about the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, a standardized system will allow a better understanding of the role of the humus forms in the carbon cycle – and the conditions under which they represent a sink (absorbing carbon), or a source (releasing carbon into the atmosphere).

Humus forms – the brown or black layers consisting of partially or wholly decayed matter – provide nutrients for plants and increase the ability of soil to retain water. These layers contain a large part of the total soil organic carbon and provide an interface between the atmosphere and the mineral soil, representing an important linkage to aquatic systems.

The main challenge the specialists have sought to address is the lack of harmony that exists in classification keys for humus forms – they are different in every European country.

Those classification differences mean that data cannot be easily exchanged among research teams, land managers and policy makers working with soils in different countries.

The specialists’ aim is to improve the compatibility of those established national classification systems and to develop a unified European reference base for humus forms. The classification system is geared primarily to West European countries between 40-60 degrees of latitude, but it’s expected to work in other ecosystems of equivalent climate. It has already been successfully tested in some forests in Iran.

While aimed primarily at forest soils, the classification system is also applicable to grasslands, pastures and wetlands.

One of the keys to this standardization is to recognize differences in local ecosystems and the need to analyze the soil horizons – layers parallel to the soil surface, whose physical characteristics differ from the layers above and beneath – of each different humus form.

The European specialists have set up protocols for the assessment and sampling of certain horizons and have developed definitions for specific diagnostic horizons, materials and their designation.

Acceptance of this classification system will provide a valuable tool to help us better understand the connection between different humus forms and carbon storage in the soil and the response of soil organic matter to a warming climate.

To view the full report, go to: [] (summarized as published article)
and [] (unpublished complete document)


Media Contact

Jean-Michel Carnus: +33-5-57122865 or jean-michel.carnus(at)
Gerda Wolfrum: +43 1 877 0151 17 or wolfrum(at)


Related Links


IUFRO Division 8 – Forest Environment:

Photo Credits

New Humus forms, in a structured dynamic system of classification. Photo provided by Augusto Zanella, Deputy Coordinator of IUFRO 8.02.03.

IUFRO Spotlight #6 – Putting Experts to the Test

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Putting Experts to the Test

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By: Jurij Beguš, Coordinator, IUFRO 9.01.03 Extension and Knowledge Exchange
(Slovenia Forest Service, Department for Forestry Technique)

Expert knowledge – advice and-or recommendations from those who have spent much time researching and learning about a given subject area – is often used by resource managers who do not themselves have the time or resources to collect all the data necessary to make a sound decision.

That expert knowledge, which can be used in highly diverse situations in various ecosystems and geographical areas, can assist with forest management, eco- regionalization, species conservation or environmental impact assessment.

But some skepticism also surrounds the use of expert knowledge. Simply saying: “This is based on expert opinion,” doesn’t really cut it.

That’s because that knowledge can be collected, analyzed and used inconsistently. At times there is no documentation to say who provided the knowledge, what specific knowledge was provided or how it was evaluated and applied.

That makes it difficult to verify the accuracy of the information or to replicate the process. Because of that, it also leaves hanging in the air the question of just how credible and useful the expert opinion actually is.

But now, a writing team led by Dr. Ajith Perera of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources’ Ontario Forest Research Institute, has published a book that shows scientists and forest decision-makers alike that, when proper methods of collecting and applying expert knowledge are used, it can be a very valuable resource.

The book – Expert Knowledge and Its Application in Landscape Ecology – takes scientifically rigorous methods of collecting and using expert knowledge that have been developed in other disciplines and then adapts those for use in resource management and ecology.

The book introduces the concept of expert knowledge and describes its applicability, advantages and challenges. It includes definitions, methods and many case studies from across North America and Australia. It provides insight into what expert knowledge is, who can be considered experts and methods and applications of expert knowledge for a variety of conservation and management-related issues.

Some of the examples of how and where expert knowledge can be used in forest management and policy development include:

  • Developing interim recommendations for best forest practices;
  • Informing and calibrating decision support systems; and
  • Interpreting maps and other data sources.

The book was produced partly because there is a need to structure the collection, analysis and use of expert knowledge so that it more closely adheres to the scientific method as practiced in empirical research. But it also helps meet a need to capture and archive expertise and knowledge that is rapidly dwindling in many forest management agencies where field experts retire and, for a variety of reasons, are not replaced.

Currently, expert knowledge is widely used in many countries. But, with this publication as a guide, expert knowledge can be even better used – in all countries.

For more information about Expert Knowledge and Its Application in Landscape Ecology, please go to:


Media Contact

Jurij Beguš: +386-1-4700071 or jurij.begus(at)
Gerda Wolfrum: +43 1 877 0151 17 or wolfrum(at)


Related Links

Publication: Expert Knowledge and Its Application in Landscape Ecology,

IUFRO Working Party 9.01.03 – Extension and knowledge exchange:

IUFRO Division 9 – Forest Policy and Economics:


Photo Credits

“Expert knowledge elicitation workshop in Ontario, Canada: Expert foresters are providing details of boreal forest succession pathways, based on their professional experience, to parameterize a forest landscape dynamics simulation model”.  Photo taken by Ajith Perera.

IUFRO Spotlight #5 – Forests: Medicine for Body and Soul

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Forests: Medicine for Body and Soul

By Hannu Raitio, Coordinator of IUFRO Task Force ForHealth
(DG Finnish Forest Research Institute, Metla)

PDF for download

Imagine a doctor who, rather than advising the usual: “Take these pills daily for the next two weeks,” says instead: “Take long walks in the forest daily for the next two weeks. That should get you back to normal.”

Okay, that’s a bit fanciful. But, it may not be too big a stretch.

There is a growing body of scientific research that suggests forests and other natural, green settings can reduce stress, improve moods, curtail aggressiveness and – possibly – even strengthen our immune systems.

Medical and health care costs are a skyrocketing financial burden in many, if not all, countries around the world – often funded through taxation or other common responsibility arrangements.

Policy makers are increasingly looking at prevention as a cost-effective alternative to medical treatment. Anything that has the potential to reduce those costs – including long walks in the forest – deserves a long, hard look.

For example, numerous studies have shown that people recover faster and better after stressful situations in natural, green environments. Blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the level of stress hormones are reduced in green environments and ADHD symptoms in children are similarly reduced when they play in green settings.

Now, in a 2011 publication: Forests, Trees and Human Health, 160 scientists from 24 European countries, with contributors from Asia, Australia, Canada and the United States have delved deeply into the question of whether forests and forest management help in the promotion of healthier lifestyles and improved mental health.

The publication’s focus is primarily on health priorities defined within Europe, however it also draws on research from North America and elsewhere and has worldwide relevance.

While continued research is needed to further our knowledge in this area, it seems clear right now that anyone involved in making policy decisions in the medical, social, natural resources, forests or urban land-use planning areas cannot afford to ignore the relationship between a green environment and human health.

For more information about Forests, Trees and Human Health, please go to:


Media Contact

Hannu Raitio: +358-10-2112010 or hannu.raitio(at)
Gerda Wolfrum: +43 1 877 0151 17 or wolfrum(at)


Related Link

Publication: Forests, Trees and Human Health:

IUFRO Task Force on Forests and Human Health:

IUFRO Spotlights main page,


Photo Credits

Photo taken by Anka Nicke, Coordinator 4.04.03 – SilvaPlan: Forest management planning terminology

IUFRO - The International Union of Forest Research Organizations