Growing insight into the future of mixed forests


A COST-funded network has deepened knowledge about mixed forests that could feed into efforts to counter the effects of global warming while protecting biodiversity and valuable natural resources.

Comprising multiple tree species, mixed forests have the capacity to better resist – and recover from – pests and phenomena related to global warming, such as drought. They can also store more carbon than their monoculture counterparts.

To tackle this issue, the COST Action ‘European mixed forests – integrating scientific knowledge in sustainable forest management (EuMIXFOR)’ fostered collaboration between 153 researchers, forest managers and companies from 42 countries between 2013 and 2017.

“This COST Action was very timely because of concerns about global warming and loss of biodiversity,” says Andrés Bravo-Oviedo, a senior research scientist at the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid who chaired the Action. “To my knowledge, it was one of the first times that such a large number of researchers from across Europe and outside Europe sat down together to discuss silviculture and management of mixed forests.”

The network resulted in published research, an ongoing EU-funded ERA-NET project about mixed forest resilience and helped improve a forest management app.

Branching out

The network produced a 2018 Springer reference book for students, researchers and policymakers entitled Dynamics, Silviculture and Management of Mixed Forests. It also led to at least 35 peer-reviewed articles published in a range of journals, including the Annals of Forest Science, Forest Ecology and Management and the Journal of Ecology.

Furthermore, the Action was an opportunity to develop additional research initiatives such as the ongoing EU-funded REFORM project, which involves many of the network’s partners. Its focus includes advancing understanding of the resistance and resilience of mixed forests to climate-driven risks, such as pest outbreaks or droughts.

Network members also took part in informal testing of the Smartelo forest management app, helping to improve its functionality. The app serves as a teaching tool, allowing students to practise applying different silviculture guidelines such as the virtual marking of trees.

On track

Bravo-Oviedo believes COST was pivotal in helping him secure both his current tenure-track position and a prestigious 2019 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development research fellowship to analyse mixed forests in collaboration with the US Forest Service. Its goal is to inform policymakers and help shape sustainable mixed forest management practices.

In terms of other career milestones, Bravo-Oviedo says having COST on his CV helped him become a research group coordinator with the International Union of Forest Research Organizations.

“Thanks to my COST experience, I’m closer to reaching my professional goals,” he says.

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