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The Integrate+ Conference brings together experts from 17 countries
The Integrate+ Conference took place in the Steigerwald Centre near Ebrach, Bavaria from 26 – 28 October 2016 and gathered nearly 80 participants with various professional backgrounds. Those included silviculture trainers, forest ecologists, conservation biologists, forest scientists and representatives from forest administrations and forest managers. The conference invited the participants to discuss and exchange on the project results, its extensive network activities and most importantly reflect on viable options on how to continue what has been initiated by Integrate+ beyond 2016.
In his opening address Thomas Haußmann from the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) made reference to the highly relevant work of Integrate+ and emphasized it as an important basis for international discussions on forest biodiversity and forest management. He cited in particular the cooperation of Integrate+ within the Czech-German strategic dialogue. Daniel Kraus in the name of the Integrate+ team then introduced the project outcomes so far and gave an outlook on the three symposium days.
Contributions from the Scientific Advisory Board of Integrate+ were presented on the first day. Kurt Bollmann from the Federal Research Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape (WSL) in Switzerland explained the significance of a network of different nature conservation tools at landscape level in order to ensure the conservation of biodiversity on a large scale. Bengt-Gunnar Jonsson, professor of biology at the Sundsvall University of Central Sweden, and a co-author of a fundamental work on biodiversity in deadwood, reported on the successes of active measures in managed forests that serve the purpose of enhancing nature conservation where appropriate habitats are still lacking. Laurent Larrieu, biodiversity expert of the French Institute for Agronomy Research (INRA) in Toulouse, emphasized the importance of microstructures on trees that provide crucial habitats for a broad range of species. During the late afternoon the “I+” tablet based training software was introduced by IT experts from the European Forest Institute. It was complemented by a presentation by the Swiss colleagues, Hannes Cosyns and Tobias Schulz, who investigate learning effects following training in demonstration sites, so called Marteloscopes. The day was concluded with a reception at the highest point of the Steigerwald tree canopy walk. It offered the participants a spectacular view of the surrounding landscape.
The second day was dedicated to the Integrate+ network. Contributions by network partners provided insight to the various activities and applications that resulted from this cooperation. Presentations were given e.g. by colleagues from Belgium, Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, Finland and Slovenia. Urs-Beat Brändli from the Swiss National Forest Inventory (LFI) reported on how the Marteloscopes established in the course of Integrate+ were utilized for the training of biodiversity-relevant structures in the LFI. One of the highlights of the day was the presentation of the Ebracher “Trittstein Concept” (“stepping stone concept”) by Ulrich Mergner (Bavarian State Forest – BaySF). It was followed by an excursion during which he illustrated the concept in more detail. Mergner, as member of the Integrate+ Scientific Advisory Board, hosted numerous international groups within the framework of the project. He also conducted many training courses in his Marteloscopes. The participants acknowledged the innovative “Trittstein concept” and noted that such does not find many equivalents across Europe. They were especially impressed that nature conservation argumentation is paramount and timber use is tailored to those.
During the final day participants exchanged views on how to continue with Integrate+ during the next years. Jörg Müller from the University of Würzburg drew attention to future challenges for integrative forest management and provided latest scientific findings, which need to be taken into account. Müller also warned against applying integrative concepts without being able to scientifically substantiate their effectiveness. Subsequently, the symposium participants developed a strategy under the leadership of the moderator Margaret Shannon from the United States on how the established network can maintain the continuation of the vibrant exchange and learning culture and atmosphere initiated across country borders. It was noted also in the course of discussion that the Integrate topic will continue to play an important role at the European Forest Institute, giving more emphasis to the policy context at European level. The network emphasized the importance of exchanges, training opportunities and the sharing of knowledge and experiences for practitioners across borders and voiced that those should be supported by a permanent structure or organization. The plenary gave the project team the mandate to investigate which form of organization is best suited for such a purpose. An intervention by Spanish network participants, who have been in a similar situation a few years back, proposed to take into consideration the establishment of a foundation. This was supported by Pia Mayer-Gampe from the FAUN Initiative who further proposed to equip such a proposed foundation with forest in order to best fulfil such needs. An overwhelming majority of participants seconded this option which will be elaborated on by a working group.