The European Forest Institute (EFI) has launched the SUPERB project, Europe’s largest transnational forest restoration project. More than 100 forest science and practice organisations from 20 different countries are involved, and the project includes 12 demonstration areas across Europe. In Romania, the demonstration area is in the eastern Făgăraș Mountains, within the forest acreage owned by Conservation Carpathia, and the project is also being developed in collaboration with The Circular Bioeconomy Alliance, established by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales in 2020.
SUPERB (Systemic solutions for upscaling of urgent ecosystem restoration for forest related biodiversity and ecosystem services) is a € 20m project funded by the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under the EU Green Deal to restore thousands of hectares of forest landscape across Europe and create lasting transformative change towards large-scale restoration.
The demonstration area in Romania covers approximately 2,300 hectares. The area is interesting because until the 1950s it was home to a natural forest of beech, fir and sycamore. After it was logged, the forest was replaced by an artificial spruce monoculture for purely economic reasons.
“It is a well-known fact that artificial spruce monocultures have a very low biodiversity and that throughout Europe, on reaching a certain age, they become severely affected by storms or insect attacks, because, being artificial forests, they are not stable,” said Mihai Zotta, conservation director of Foundation Conservation Carpathia. “Based on the natural evolution of tens, hundreds, or even thousands of years, the species that are best suited to a certain place were chosen. We humans cannot be better engineers than nature. And planting monocultures instead of mixed forests has shown this. Along the upper Dâmbovița Valley, the spruce forest is young and can be saved much more easily through this project. We will create canopy openings to let in light and plant deciduous species, to bring back the mixed forest: strong and with a high degree of biodiversity. In addition to the intervention over about 100 ha of spruce, we will make a second intervention in areas where we have already initiated this process, during previous projects. We will also improve the alder galleries along the Upper Dâmbovița Valley, which are so important for stabilising the riverbanks. We will also restore the habitats of shrubs that existed over large areas. We are talking about protected habitats of community interest – Arolla pine – Pinus cembra, Pinus mugo, which are very important in terms of biodiversity.”
The gradual return of the natural forest within the spruce monoculture area is a long-term process – ecological restoration activities take place in successive stages that can last for up to 20 years.
The SUPERB project in Romania also includes monitoring, community involvement and educational activities.
Without active support, these areas return to their natural state of equilibrium with great difficulty. Ecological restoration actions facilitate or mimic natural processes as far as possible and need to take future climate changes into account.
The event, presented by Elisabeth Pötzelsberger, project coordinator EFI, was launched in Sibiu in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales, the Minister for the Environment and other European representatives. A series of workshops took place during the following days and a working visit of 60 participants involved in the SUPERB project took place on 2nd June in the demonstration area managed by Foundation Conservation Carpathia.
The opening event can be watched in full here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCmxHvGYjkw&t=5335s.
“We are glad to be part of this project. We keep proving over so many years that the way our organisation approaches biodiversity is a good practice model,” said Barbara Promberger, executive director of Conservation Carpathia. “We look forward to welcoming the project colleagues to the Dâmbovița Valley to see part of the demo area, tree nurseries, which provide seedlings for ecosystem restoration activities, ecological restoration sites, wild forests and the Richita Educational Centre, where environmental educational activities in the SUPERB project will be organised. We will have several workshops in the field, where we will exchange ideas and experiences.”
The Foundation Conservation Carpathia project is unique in Romania and represents one of the most important forest conservation initiatives in Europe. From 2009 to date, the project has saved from logging 27,000 hectares of alpine forests and pastures in the south-eastern Southern Carpathians and has restored 1,157 hectares of forests by planting more than 3 million seedlings. More information about the project can be found here: https://www.carpathia.org/
SUPERB with 36 partners in 16 countries and led by the European Forest Institute, aims to restore thousands of hectares of forested landscape across Europe. To implement this, we will create an enabling environment for future-oriented forest restoration, including required adaptation measures (‘prestoration’) at different scales. More information about this project https://forest-restoration.eu/.
Circular Bioeconomy Alliance was established by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales in 2020. It provides knowledge-informed support as well as a learning and networking platform to connect the dots between investors, companies, governmental and non-governmental organizations and local communities to advance the circular bioeconomy while restoring biodiversity globally. More information about the project in Romania https://circularbioeconomyalliance.org/a-living-lab-for-nature-people-and-the-planet-in-the-romanian-carpathian-mountains/.
SUPERB is funded by Horizon 2020 through Grant Agreement 101036849, and receives 20 Million Euro for the implementation period between 2021-2025.