Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development
Environment: European forests at the forefront of the effort to save our planet, innovative models to assess their climate mitigation potential
Evaluate the potential of forests in mitigating climate change through economic and biophysical modelling solutions, open data, and cloud infrastructures. This is the goal of the ForestNavigator project  presented by ENEA on the International Day of Forests on March 21st.
Funded with around 6 million euros from the Horizon Europe programme , the project brings together 24 partners  from 14 countries, including ENEA and Cnr from Italy, and IIASA - International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis from Austria (coordinator).
ForestNavigator will assess the benefits of forest ecosystem services  and the balance between environmental and socio-economic objectives in the forest bioeconomy sector which is experiencing increasing demand for resources despite the need for enlarging carbon storage potential that is crucial for mitigation.
As part of the project, four representative case studies of heterogeneous ecological and socio-economic conditions will be analysed: Italy, with Alpine and Mediterranean forests affected by floods, droughts and fires that require taking urgent adaptation measures to promote resilience, climate mitigation and ecosystem services; Sweden and Ireland, with monocultural forests dominated by wood-intensive conifers; Czech Republic, with temperate forests at risk due to extreme events and drought.
More specifically, the project will develop a monitoring system for European forests and a set of integrated and next generation multi-scale modelling tools to represent forest growth dynamics and evaluate the potential effects of climate change mitigation and adaptation. These tools will integrate information on climate and biodiversity, as well as on the so-called "forest disturbances" such as fires, pests, fungi, etc., and on the cultural and recreational role of forests. The project will also include the development of Earth system models, able to reproduce the relationships between land use, forest management and climate. Finally, an open-access platform to support national authorities and modelers will ensure the dissemination and use of project results, host key data and output, open-source models, and suggestions on country and region-specific mitigation and adaptation strategies.
"Forests play a strategic role in mitigating and adapting to climate change but are vulnerable to it, as well as to human mismanagement; their vital role is the primary reason for celebrating them on the International Day of Forests on March 21st", stresses Melania Michetti, the project manager for ENEA and a researcher in the Division of Models and Technologies for disaster risks reduction. "The value of forests is not only related to the supply of biomass, but also to other ecosystem services: cultural and the regulation of natural cycles", adds Fabio Eboli of the ENEA Department for Sustainability.
ForestNavigator will contribute to the assessment of the climate mitigation potential of European forests in a range of different climate neutrality scenarios by 2050, as well as in the projections of the European Green Deal, the Fit for 55 package and the targets on renewables, bioeconomy and biodiversity.
ENEA will be involved in supporting the development of strategies for engaging, managing, and communicating with stakeholders and will carry out the economic evaluation of ecosystem services in different climate and forest management scenarios through the analysis of the 4 selected case studies. "The results will be able to provide policy insights for a more sustainable forest management in Europe", says Rossana Cotroneo of the ENEA Department of Innovation and Development.
Overall, the project will result in a true working partnership between scientists, modellers, and policy makers to facilitate the knowledge exchange and networking, ensuring continuity and sustainability in the management of forest resources, even beyond the project’s duration.
 Ecosystem services are the multiple benefits provided by ecosystems: provisioning, regulation and maintenance and cultural values (What are ecosystem services? — European Environment Agency (europa.eu)).