Problems to be solved
The governments of several EU countries have decided to actively promote an increase in the forest area planted on former farmland within the next decades. In many European countries, agricultural areas are therefore currently being converted to forest. Afforestation is a shift in land use that may have significant effects on the environment. An uncertainty in the governmental decisions is what environmental aspects will be affected and to what extent. For example, whether or not leaching of nitrate will decrease as a result of afforestation. Therefore, it is necessary, already in an early phase of the afforestation process, to evaluate how the afforestation investments best will lead to the desired environmental effects. When planning and designing the new forests of the future there is a great opportunity to reduce the environmental effects and develop a sustainable management of afforested systems. Especially, in the light of the international efforts to reduce the nitrate pollution reflected in the Nitrates directive (91/676/EEC) and to reduce the net emission of greenhouse gases as stated at the Climate Convention in Kyoto, afforestation has become an increasingly interesting land use alternative for surplus agricultural soils.
Scientific objectives and approach
The project AFFOREST focuses on the changes in C and N fluxes due to the development of forests on former agricultural land. The influence of afforestation on deposition, nitrate leaching, and groundwater recharge and the dynamics of the C and N sequestration in the new forests are studied in more detail. Knowledge is obtained from literature and existing data sets, completed with a set of new experiments on chronosequences of newly afforested ecosystems on former agricultural soils. Based on these findings, a geographical database will be built, a mechanistic carbon/nitrogen/water process-based model will be developed, the model and the spatial information will be integrated in a GIS-model, and a decision support system (AFFOREST-DSS) for scenario analyses and decision support for end-users, such as forest and landscape planners and policy makers, will be developed. This tool is able to test and compare different scenarios of afforestation and to propose optimal solutions for afforestation planning. On the basis of these scenario analyses and the performed fieldwork, guidelines for optimal afforestation management will be developed. The guidelines and the decision support system will be presented and discussed at workshops for end-users, and training courses in AFFOREST-DSS will be arranged.
The ultimate goal of AFFOREST is to assist the end-users, such as forest and landscape planners and policy makers, in scheming and planning new forests in an environmentally sound way with as few negative effects on the environment as possible. The strategic impact of the AFFOREST proposal will therefore be a possibility to improve the quality of the groundwater, and hereby improve the EU environment as well as provide the EU citizens with cleaner drinking water. Also, the impact will be a possibility to optimise the groundwater availability. Future afforestation also has the potential to decrease the consumption of fossil fuels and in this way lower the emission of greenhouse gases. AFFOREST will clarify to what extent afforestation could be accounted for as a credit in the reduction emission calculations.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
3000 Louvain / Leuven
7300 AH Apeldoorn
750 07 Uppsala
3508 TB Utrecht