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Final Report Summary - NEWFORESTS (New and old World perspectives for forest ecology and management in a context of global change.)

The Newforests Project is an IRSES Marie-Curie action aiming at the creation of an innovative platform at the international level to analyse the responses of forest ecosystems to global changes and integrate current knowledge on cutting edge forest management and novel planning approaches. The Newforests project exchange program brings together researchers from 5 research institutions: two from public research centres in Spain, Forest Sciences Centre of Catalonia (CTFC; and Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF;, one French institution, Bio-Archaeology and Ecology Centre (CBAE;, and two Canadian Universities (University du Québec à Montréal, UQAM, and in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, UQAT) hosting two of the main hubs of the Centre for Forest Research (CEF;
The general objective of the program has been to determine how to effectively integrate woodland management (including non-management options) into strategies aimed to adjust and mitigate global change impacts on forest systems. During three years, a total of 67 different researchers have participated in the program with a total of 104 secondments and 235 man-months, including experienced and early stage researchers, technical and management staff. Seventy-one secondments were from European institutions to Canadian institutions, while 33 secondments were in the inverse direction.
The main results of the project are structured in 5 thematic work packages ranging from functional diversity and ecology to forest ecosystem management. Regarding the functional diversity and ecology WP (WP1), researchers from CREAF have worked on carbon fluxes in forests related to disturbances, specifically land abandonment. The findings suggest that new forests have been playing a relevant role in counterbalancing the emission of CO2 in recent decades (Vilà-Cabrera et al 2017 Ecos.). A group of five researchers from CREAF and UQAM showed that although diversity had a general positive impact on forest productivity, it did not offer any protection against the negative effect of climate anomalies where those existed, contrary to the initial hypothesis. More, a study with researchers from CBAE and UQAM showed that biomass offsets little or none of permafrost carbon release from soils, streams, and wildfire (Abbot et al 2016 ERL).
New developments on Biodiversity Dynamics (WP2) have led CBAE researchers to work on the analyses of temporal trends of plant diversity using fossil pollen records from the North American boreal forest-taiga biome. They discovered that the western and the eastern North American boreal forests experienced each different diversity dynamics (Blarquez et al 2014 FEE). Furthermore, an extensive Global Charcoal Database is under preparation, an initiative to improve quantitative estimates of past biomass burning and fire modelling. On the other hand, Doblas-Miranda et al 2014 AS addressed the question on how the desiccation of superficial levels of agro-ecosystem soils associated with an increase of droughts due to climate change can induce to a different role of deeper sources of organic resources, such as tree roots, thus becoming crucial in the maintenance of diverse microarthropod communities. Researchers from CBAE-UQAM have provided forest managers with evidences of tree growth reduction potentiality associated to the global warming (Housset et al 2016 FEE). Finally, a working group from CTFC-UQAM-UQAT is currently assessing the importance of different environmental drivers of changes in breeding bird distribution changes in Quebec, and unraveling the mechanisms by which landscape connectivity and forest management influence bird responses.
Disturbance dynamics research (WP3) has originated significant scientific achievements related to the main drivers of fire dynamics in Mediterranean and Boreal forests and developed new methodologies to unravel historic fire regimes by using relations charcoal data (Brossier et al 2014 TH) and the identification of past land-uses and vegetation patterns in boreal systems (Aleman et al 2013 TH, Blarquez et al 2014 FEE). In this context, a number of studies have been completed on the reconstructed past fire disturbance regimes in boreal systems (Oris et al 2013 GRL, Oris et al 2014 ER, Belanger et al 2014 Ge, Ouarmin et al 2014 FEM, Ouarmin et al 2014 JQS, Leys et al 2014 QSR, Blarquez et al 2015 SR, Ouarmin et al 2016 Fo, Remy et al 2017 ERL, Remy et al 2017 JoB).
Forest Complexity Modelling was the main topic of WP4. On this research front, NEWFORESTS researchers from CTFC and UQAM have specified how a complex-adaptive-system approach is a good alternative to provide ecosystem-based evidences to help guiding forest management in systems affected by global change (Filotas et al 2014Ec, Messier et al. 2015 CL). Furthermore, researchers from CTFC and CREAF collaborated with CEF members to model insect outbreaks dynamics in Boreal and Mediterranean forests. Ameztegui et al 2015 EM modelled the effect of climate-induced changes in mixed forest juveniles dynamics, and demonstrated that for species with similar light requirements, small differences in sapling growth response to climate change can lead to significant differences in future species composition. PhD student research from CTFC-UQAM has developed a new Land-use/Land-cover model (MEDLUCC) aiming at reproducing relevant transitions observed in Mediterranean landscapes: urbanization, rural abandonment and agriculture conversion (Aquilué et al 2017 EM). Another group of researchers have designed a new index to evaluate forest capacity to maintain their functions and services after disturbances (wildfires, severe drought periods, and windstorm events). This study not only helps to better understand the response of ecosystems, but it can become a very useful tool for decision making in forest management, especially in climate change context (Sánchez-Pinillos et al 2016 EI).
Finally, in NEWFORESTS work package on Forest ecosystem management (WP5), CTFC-UQAM researchers have been evaluating mortality and growth in an assisted migration experiment in a Mediterranean pine-dominated forest. The results show that the thermal migration distance and the occurrence of extreme cold events have strong effects on the responses of the translocated species. Managers and forest planners may also consider the advantage of planting/sowing under relatively closed canopy to buffer some of the negative responses associated with translocation (Martin-Alcon et al 2015 AVS). Another group led by CTFC researchers demonstrated that biomass extraction is an effective management strategy to reduce fire risk at landscape scales (Regos et al 2016 Ec).
All these results and others not described in this summary have been or will be published in peer-reviewed papers in international scientific journals raised from the secondments accomplished in the present project. More specifically, 40 joint articles have been published with European and Canadian authors. Furthermore, 2 workshops have been organized by members of the present project, researchers have disseminated their results in 21 presentations in international conferences, and a total of 15 researchers have participated in transversal seminars among many research centres. One of the most important scientific highlights is the beginning of new PhD students co-supervised between EU and Canada (8), with the consequent international investment that this action involves, towards an internationalization of early-researchers.
One of the research objectives of Europe for 2020 is to build resilient forestry systems in order to guarantee the supply of bio-materials in a sustainable and resource-efficient way and without compromising natural resources. This is a major challenge in the Mediterranean, which is particularly exposed to the negative impact of global change, and requires of strategic partnerships with top-science experts from EU and non EU partners. NEWFORESTS has contributed to this strategic perspective and allow EU partners to project their research on an international scale and consolidate long-term relationship with excellence centres in Canada.
More information of the project can be found in the website of the project:
Capitalization Report summarising project highlights:

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