The first experimental forest activities carried out by the project partner University of Milan

First fieldwork activities completed!

The University of Milan, one of the partners of the project, has recently completed fieldwork activities in the three sites of the LIFE CO2 project. The data collected will be used to analyse and quantify the current and future level of two ecosystem services, i.e., carbon sequestration and hydro-geological protection, and the vulnerability of the forest to wildfire and windthrow, hazards whose frequency and severity are increasing under ongoing climate change.

First of all, the forest management models currently applied in the three sites were summarized based existing management plans and regional directives regarding regeneration mode, timing and intensity of planned harvest, and conservation measures. Then, based on fieldwork results, a management unit of 20 hectares will be selected for silvicultural  interventions, with the aim of maximising the ecosystem services and minimizing vulnerability to natural hazards.

The experimental forest activities

The experimental activities, supervised by Giorgio Vacchiano assisted by Edoardo Nevola and four graduate students of the University of Milan, have been carried out in the forests of three Italian sites: the Fusine Regional Property in Friuli Venezia Giulia Autonomous Region, The Comunalie Consortium of Parma close to Borgotaro, and the Emilia-Romagna regional forest  close to Galeata.

The field team carried out dendrometric measurements in 113 survey plots in which more than 5000 trees were measured for species and diameter at breast height. A sub-sample of trees (5-6 per plot on average) was measured also for height and canopy size, and increment cores were extracted using an increment borer to measure current growth rates.

The team also carried out a field-base assessment of the effectiveness of hydrogeologic protection for each forest management unit based on slope, tree size and density, horizontal and vertical structure, mechanical stability of trees, and status of regeneration. This method allowed to assign a score (-3/+3) to the protective effect of the forest on human settlements downslopes against avalanches, rockfall and shallow landslides.

In addition to the activities mentioned above, measurements of the type and load of vegetative fuel were carried out in about ten plots per study area. Samples of fuel in different size classes were collected from the forest floor, oven-dried weighed to obtain an estimate of flammable biomass amount per hectare of forest.

Next steps

All the gathered data will be combined with the ones already available from management plans and LiDAR scans and used to estimate the  above- and belowground biomass and the carbon stocks in the three study areas.

The number and the width of tree rings will be measured from each increment core to calculate aboveground biomass increment and NPP through allometric equations. These results will be used as inputs for models that simulate future forest growth and carbon flows to assess how the carbon sink will develop in the next 50 years.

The two models that were selected for this purpose in a specific task of this LIFE project are the Canadian Carbon Budget Model and CO2FIX.

The ForestGALES simulator will be used to evaluate critical windspeed for stem breaking and overturning in all forest management units in the three sites. This software will spatialize the data collected in the field to produce a map of current and future forest vulnerability to wind disturbance in the three study areas.

Two models software will be used to simulate fire behaviour, based on fuel loads measured in the fields and fire weather scenarios, with the aim to produce a map of burn probability and potential fire spread (Flammap) and to  calculate potential fire behavior, fire mortality (BEHAVE Plus) and related emissions (FOFEM) in each forest unit.