Real-world laboratory in LMU forest: new collaboration for sustainability research

31 Jan 2024

The project will come up with strategies for the sustainable management of south German forests and for dealing with extreme events in the future.

  • A collaboration in the LMU forest between various research institutions and partners from the forestry sector is investigating how forestry can work under climate change.
  • The joint project LabForest has been awarded 2.8 million euros in funding by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and will run for a period of five years starting in February 2024.

Forests in Bavaria, Germany, and Europe are under huge pressure. Climate change is reducing their resilience and is increasingly threatening ecosystems and forestry yields. “The summers of drought in 2018 and 2019 have caused enormous damage and highlighted the need for action,” says Professor Lukas Lehnert, who leads the Physical Geography and Environmental Remote Sensing research group at LMU. At the same time, demand is increasing for wood products and other ecosystem services that forests provide.

Lehnert leads the new joint project LabForest – University forest as real-world laboratory for sustainable rejuvenation management in a changing climate, which will begin in February 2024 and has received 2.8 million euros in funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The project will investigate future forest management options that can reconcile the various demands of climate action, economic interests, conservation, and hydrology. Through the establishment of a real-world laboratory, the research findings will feed into German forest and wood management practice.

At the heart of the large-scale project is the LMU forest near the Bavarian town of Landshut, which will serve as a real-world laboratory for extensive experiments and measurements. “Our field experiment makes it possible for the first time to compare the effects of various forest and wood management methods in connection with disturbances and evaluate them in conjunction with their impacts on biodiversity and important ecosystem services,” explains Lehnert. The LMU forest makes for an ideal testing site, as its location is typical for the majority of Bavarian forest land urgently in need of transformation due to climate change. “The fact that LMU possesses its own forestry land is a golden opportunity for research.”

Researchers from the fields of geography, forest and wood management, and ecology make up the interdisciplinary consortium. As well as the LMU contributors, researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM), Dresden University of Technology, the Bavarian State Institute of Forestry (LWF), the Bavarian School of Forestry (Bayerische Waldbauernschule), and the Comital Forestry Office Arco-Zinneberg (Gräflich Arco-Zinneberg'sche Forstamt) are also involved. Over a period of five years, the scientists will closely monitor and analyze a wide variety of elements of the forest and their interactions under different management regimes: water cycle, biodiversity, carbon fixation, wood production, and pests such as bark beetles. To this end, they will collect measurement data on site, which they will then use to create complex models for hydrology, vegetation, economy, and life cycle assessment.

At LMU, the research groups of Professor Lukas Lehnert (Physical Geography and Environmental Remote Sensing), Professor Ralf Ludwig (Physical Geography and Environmental Modeling), and Professor Julia Pongratz and Dr. Wolfgang Obermeier (both Physical Geography and Land Use Systems) are involved in the university forest research.

The members of the joint project are confident that their work can equip forests for upcoming challenges. “LabForest will make important contributions to the reaching of climate targets and the conservation and sustainable use of habitats and resources,” says Lukas Lehnert. Moreover, the project will come up with strategies for the sustainable management of south German forests and for dealing with crises and extreme events in the future.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Lukas Lehnert
Professor for Physical Geography and Environmental Remote Sensing
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Tel.: +49 (0) 89 / 2180 – 6681

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