What we do

Assessing the effect of proforestation on carbon and biodiversity

Leaving forests unmanaged and allowing them to regenerate on their own accord is a rewilding approach known as proforestation.

Without requiring any investments or human effort, proforestation can create some of the most carbon-dense and biodiverse terrestrial ecosystems in Europe.  

In WILDCARD, we are braving the unmanaged forests of the EuFoRIa network, a group of more than 500 sites in Europe’s primeval forests and strict forest reserves that are renewing themselves naturally for at least one decade, but in many cases for several decades and even centuries.

Our researchers will use data on tree species, forest structure, tree volume and other characteristics across forest ecosystems in 16 European countries and harmonise it with additional information from potential new locations outside the network.  

Collage, man working in the forest
Old-growth forests<br>Video credit: Davide Ascoli

Old-growth forests
Video credit: Davide Ascoli

Equipped with this rich dataset, we will quantify the current contribution of rewilded forests to carbon sequestration, while also estimating its future evolution.

This includes looking above the ground to measure carbon stored in the form of stems, stumps, branches, bark, seeds, foliage and living understory plants, and below the ground for carbon stored in the form of roots or fixated by trees in the soil. In parallel, we will investigate how biodiversity above and below the ground develops after the abandonment of forest management and analyse how forest structure affects biodiversity using remote sensing approaches.

The capacity of rewilded forests to resist and adapt to future climatic trends and extreme events, such as fires, storms and pests, will also be estimated. This will allow us to better evaluate how carbon stocks might be negatively affected by the future climate, and how possible risks can be minimised.

Euforia Network

Work Package Lead:

Dr. Lucia Seebach, Forest Research Institute Baden-Württemberg

PHOTO Lucia Seebach
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Involved partners