European Beech Forest Network (EBFN)

European Beech Forest Network (EBFN)

From 15th to 19th November 2015, 30 experts from 13 European countries including the European Wilderness Society, who are dedicated to beech forest research and conservation, participated in this first expert workshop in the course of the project “Beech Forest Network of Europe” – which represents an initial meeting for the development of a European Beech Forest Network (EBFN).

European beech forest experts

The workshop was held with a high level of motivation and commitment to the conservation of beech forests among the participants. It included sessions on the historical and recent development in European beech forest conservation (e.g. the World Heritage (WH) extension nomination process), the situation of beech forests regarding their vulnerability to current threats and (potential) risks as well as discussions about the potential for creating a functional EBFN.

Experts informed about their work and projects and presented latest results of beech forest research in different Beech Forest Regions (BFRs) and further provided insight to the situation of the forests in their countries and regions of expertise. Additionally, systemic vulnerability and risk assessments were conducted in several group work sessions, which resulted in provisional conceptual models per BFR. The outcome shows that a broad range of (current and potential) risks that differ in occurrence per BFR and intensity, constitute a threat to the European beech forest ecosystem.

Reports on the current loss of old-growth beech forests – particularly in the Carpathian BFR, raised serious concerns and encouraged the group of experts to formulate a joint statement addressed to European governments and the European Union, which is pleading for a logging moratorium in old-growth beech forests. Based on the presented findings and the outcomes of situation analysis, the group of experts mutually agreed on the need for strengthening the conservation of beech forests in Europe – especially concerning the remaining old-growth stands. Multiple group work sessions were conducted to answer the questions of how to develop a pan-European initiative, how to institutionalise such an initiative, which targets to be pursued, which actors and entities to be included and finally which obstacles might be ahead and which opportunities could be exploited.

The outcome of the discussions showed a great number of ideas and recommendations as well as specific working steps that have to be followed-up. It became obvious and was jointly agreed that a EBFN could have the potential to promote beech forest conservation (and sustainable use) on different levels, by bringing together a very diverse group of stakeholders, by providing a platform for communication and further exchange and by presenting a common, science- and civil society-based European voice for the beech forests as a continental ecosystem complex. Regarding the possibilities for a suitable institutional structure it was suggested to aim at a registered society with a limited number of members that is supported by a large initiative consisting of a diverse group of partners. The group of experts felt encouraged to continue their joint efforts for further working towards the implementation of a EBFN.

Background and goals of the project

In the framework of the Research & Development project “World Heritage Beech Forests” (May 2012 – November 2014) a large group of experts from all over Europe contributed to collecting data and information about old-growth beech forest areas and further participated in the process of selecting the most suitable areas for a possible extension nomination to the existing WH property “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians (Slovak Republic, Ukraine) and Ancient Beech Forests of Germany”.

During this process and even in antecedent workshops it became obvious that just a limited number of the investigated beech forest areas would be suitable to fulfill the criteria for a WH nomination. For this reason the vision of a EBFN came up – a network of beech forest experts and stakeholders, which should consider (old-growth) beech forests in protected areas (PAs), even beyond the component parts of the serial WH property – to enhance cooperation for beech forest conservation, management, research and communication across Europe. The overall goal of this project is to work towards a functional network of European beech forest experts and practitioners from (protected) areas, which comprise valuable (old-growth) beech forests plus a broad range of further stakeholders. The network should serve as a platform for: Mutual learning and exchange on recent findings/research results about the situation of beech forests in general; Discussions about different management approaches regarding the protection and sustainable use of beech forests; Developing a joint strategy for old-growth beech forest conservation in Europe.

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