COST Connect on forest protection and sustainability


Leveraging research and networking for a sustainable future

Forests are essential to the environmental, social, and economic well-being of Europe and the world. They act as carbon sinks, support biodiversity, provide resources and play a critical role in climate regulation. However, Europe’s forests face many challenges, including deforestation, invasive species, climate change, pollution and unsustainable land-use practices. To effectively address these challenges and promote the protection and sustainability of forests, there is an urgent need for research networking at the European level.

a field of purple flowers in the woods
Hallerbos, Belgium

On 8-9 February, representatives from 16 COST Actions met with 6 stakeholders (from DG ENVIRONMENT of the European Commission to SCAR Forest and the European Forest Institute) to present their work and participate in discussions on topics ranging from the challenges facing European forests to the harmonisation of forest monitoring, inventory approaches in Europe, and innovations in forest technology and data analysis.

Stakeholders present took the floor with interesting presentations and provided useful information to COST Actions on how to participate in EU calls and policies.

group photo of the event participants in front of the screen

Mr Kallio’s presentation highlighted the efforts of the SCAR SWG FOREST (Strategic Working Group on Forests and Forestry Research and Innovation under the Standing Committee on Agricultural Research) for the Candidate European Partnership on Forests and Forestry for a Sustainable Economy, which is expected to be launched in 2025. The Partnership will include not only specific transnational calls for proposals for RDI, but also a variety of other types of activities, such as capacity building of RDI actors and increasing the impact of RDI programmes and projects, including science-based policy support.

“The COST Connect event turned out to be an excellent instrument to facilitate collaboration and knowledge exchange among European researchers and stakeholders in the field of forestry research. I would expect that the highly relevant COST Actions with their large networking capacities can certainly feed into the design and development of the European Forest Partnership, not least for drafting the first version of the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA)”

Mika Kallio, SCAR Forest

The event included a poster session from 16 Actions, with several examples illustrating the diversity of topics and challenges faced:

The challenge of the Action Biodiversity Of Temperate forest Taxa Orienting Management Sustainability by Unifying Perspectives (BOTTOMS-UP) is to increase the degree of sustainability of European temperate forest management for biodiversity.

Meanwhile, Pan-European Network for Climate Adaptive Forest Restoration and Reforestation (PEN CAFoRR) will address the full cycle of forest restoration and reforestation in different ecosystems by broadening the dissemination of knowledge and facilitating the scaling up of planning and implementation of PENCAFoRR programmes. One aspect is the exchange of best practices, e.g. for people planting.

WATer isotopeS in the critical zONe: from groundwater recharge to plant transpiration (WATSON) aims to make stakeholders aware that the use of robust isotope approaches is available for water resource management.

Three-dimensional forest ecosystem monitoring and better understanding by terrestrial-based technologies (3DForEcoTech) project aims to establish a strong network of scientists, stakeholders (i.e. practitioners) and sensor manufacturers to synchronise knowledge, develop common protocols and algorithms for monitoring forest ecosystems and forest functioning, and make these novel technologies available to a broad audience. 

Sustainable use of salt-affected lands (SUSTAIN) Action aims to build a global transdisciplinary network of scientific experts and engaged stakeholders in the field of salinity research in the context of food security, sustainability and the intensifying climate crisis.

Finally, the objective of the Action Integrated DSS for delivery of ecosystem services based on EU forest policies (DDS4ES) is to establish a research network for evaluating Decision Support Systems (DSS) to improve sustainable forest management and planning at the landscape scale, taking into account different ecosystem services and products. The Action will also address the different landscape metrics in transition areas and wider issues such as forest pollinators, which are also important for agriculture.

These examples illustrate the wide variety of topics discussed at the COST Connect event. They highlight the potential of collaborative research on forest protection and sustainability. Through nurturing collaborations and addressing various aspects of research, we can address the complex challenges faced by forests and build a sustainable future.

Learn more about some of these networks in their respective videos:

Additional information