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Forest monitoring is to contribute to climate neutrality - new EU project with Swiss participation

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08.11.2022  | NIBIO - Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research | News WSL


Throughout Europe forests are monitored in order to quantify forest growth. The EU-project PathFinder aims to coordinate the way data from forest inventories are shared between countries. The goal is to supply decision makers with better data on forest growth in order to reduce emissions, mitigate climate change and promote biodiversity. The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL is participating.

  •  Our overall aim is to aid Europe’s transition to a climate-neutral and resilient society and economy, says Johannes Breidenbach, coordinator for EU’s newly launched PathFinder project.
  • Purposeful policy decisions are based on reliable information on the state and future development of forest resources, Breidenbach says.
  • Switzerland's participation is important, says Marco Ferretti of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL): "Keeping our forest inventory and monitoring system up to date at European and global level is both a scientific priority and a necessity in order to obtain accurate and comparable information on the Swiss forest."


All in all, 23 research organizations across Europe take part in the four-year EU-funded PathFinder endeavor to improve Europe’s forest monitoring capability – helping increase carbon storage and stop biodiversity loss in forests.



Forests are central to Europe’s economies, climate, and biodiversity

Firstly, the PathFinder project aims to develop a common monitoring system of Europe’s forests. This is important because coherent forest monitoring ensures updated and consistent information about greenhouse gas emissions from forests across Europe.

- Even between neighboring countries there are differences in the way national forest inventories are conducted, Breidenbach says.

- Through the PathFinder project we will standardize the way these data are collected across Europe and harmonize the way this information is shared.

In addition, the EU requires policies that foster a forest-based bioeconomy that help mitigate climate change and promote biodiversity.

- Currently, decision making is hampered because timely and reliable information is missing.


A PathFinder method for climate mitigation and adaptation in Europe

A second aim of the EU-funded PathFinder project is to develop models that can project how European forests can contribute to climate mitigation and adaptation under various scenarios, using different natural and socio-economic drivers.

- Such a system is required to monitor progress towards targets, and for policy makers to continuously adjust and adapt as new information becomes available, says Breidenbach.

This enables the third aim where PathFinder scientists, together with stakeholders – including policymakers, landowners, forest managers, and nature & biodiversity conservationists – set forward to mobilize their understanding and evidence in ways that can help link short-term decisions to long-term outcomes, thus providing more effective and resilient future forest management pathways.

- There are many options leading towards a future climate-neutral Europe. Our approach in the PathFinder project is to find the pathway for Europe’s forests that results in the least trade-offs and maximum synergies among the many ecosystem services forest provide, says Breidenbach.


Original press release of NIBIO:


Swiss contribution and benefits for Switzerland

The PathFinder project brings together European forest monitoring data with the aim of producing up-to-date and accurate Europe-wide maps of carbon, biomass and volume estimates and changes. The data are further used to calibrate models that simulate future forest dynamics. This includes models that represent changes in deadwood, litter (organic cover), and soil. (Task leader: Markus Didion, WSL).

These two main goals of PathFinder are relevant for Switzerland because ...

... the spatial maps are also produced for Switzerland and they can be used as a starting point for further projects;

... Switzerland benefits from the improvements in monitoring or CO2 reporting in the framework of its international treaties (UNFCCC & Paris Agreement; FAO; Forest Europe).

... the harmonised results for Switzerland can be incorporated into FISE (Forest Information System for Europe), the European environmental authority.

... The Swiss National Forest Inventory and the SwissAIM initiative concur to, and benefit from, the development of methods.