A hybrid model between process-based and empirical approaches will be adopted to simulate forest ecosystem dynamics in a case study of particular interest for stakeholders of the forestry sector value chain, towards enhancing and promoting sustainable forest management under the pressure of climate change and demand for forest ecosystem services. A similar approach was already applied in the Climate-KIC accelerator project MADAMES-AX, coordinated by the partner MEEO, where CMCC applied, over a certified forest area in northern Italy, a Forest Ecosystem Model to simulates forest growth at daily time scale and according to climate, soil and stand characteristics, reproducing the main eco-physiological processes governing gross and net primary production (GPP, NPP), carbon and water dynamics. Indicators linked to forest ecosystem services, like carbon sequestration, and thus climate mitigation, and water cycle regulation, will be formulated with stakeholders according to their needs and will be derived from key model outputs like GPP and/or NPP, and evapotranspiration.
Climate warming reduces forests’ regeneration and growth, decreasing leaf life span in evergreen species and increasing length of growing period in deciduous species. These impacts are exacerbated by the increasingly faster fluctuation of extreme events (warm and cold, wet and dry). To cope with climate change, forest species will need to adapt to the new conditions or migrate to areas with suitable conditions for survival.
Modified climate dynamics, influencing vegetation growth, health, productivity, and diversity, jeopardise the quantity and quality of goods and functions provided by forests to both the environment and to people, better known as Forest Ecosystem Services (FESs), divided into: provisioning, of wood and non-wood products; regulating, of climate (through tree and soil carbon sequestration/sink) and water cycle (acting on soil physical and chemical properties); cultural (tourism, recreation); supporting (nutrient cycling). Due to the complex processes and interactions among plants, soil, water and air, it is evident how the FESs are strictly connected to each other and are first of all a function of healthy forest conditions within the surrounding landscape.
The evaluation of current to future climate impacts on forests can benefit from the application of models, mixed among empirical and process-based formulations, especially combined with two main components: (i) the Earth Observation (EO), in terms of input data, parameters or initial state variables, closer to reality than generalized information extracted from literature and often not well representative of the considered ecosystem; (ii) ensemble approaches that enable, through the consideration of multiple different possible management options, greenhouse gas concentration scenarios and climate models, a more robust decision making.
The Forest ecosystems use case will identify information on ecosystem services produced in a managed forest, in particular provisioning services (wood and timber), and regulating services, for hydrology and climate through the water and carbon cycle, respectively. This will support the identification and validation of a business model (i.e. the model that describes the logic according to which an organization operates) of forestry companies that intend to exchange ecosystem services produced by sustainably managed forests. Such a business model will answer business related questions such as: How should these companies operate? With which customers and with which partners? What key activities and resources need to be exploited to sustainably manage the forest and sell the ecosystem services produced? Possible stakeholder is the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC, Italian or international office), with which both SISTEMA, MEEO and CMCC extensively and successfully collaborated in the past, and that can easily attract members of its huge network from forest owners/managers to actors of the wood/timber value chain in the Pilot.
A review of forest models and of their characteristics (in terms of consideration of climate and management, and ease of use), in synergy with other projects, is guiding the selection of the most promising approach to be implemented and improved thanks to the exploitation of Earth Observation and Data Science disciplines.
Use case 4, dealing with forest ecosystems, will utilize a variable pallet of input data mostly derived from EO and/or other thematic geo datasets (e.g. from Copernicus services), to exploit forest modelling approaches in the digitalization of the forestry sector, also in line with activities recently undertaken by the collaboration of partners with forestry stakeholders in several EU projects (MADAMES-AX, DESIRA)