New research group “Sylvanus”

Rising temperatures, droughts, and pollutants threaten forests worldwide. The ITAS research group Sylvanus is looking for ways to improve their resilience. Its goal is to combine the technical with the societal perspective.
Viele Wälder leiden unter den Folgen des Klimawandels. Strategien sie widerstandsfähiger zu machen, entwickelt die neue Forschungsgruppe Sylvanus
Many forests are suffering the effects of climate change. The new Sylvanus research group develops strategies to make them more resilient. (Photo: Yulian Alexeyev / Unsplash)

Only 21 percent of the tree population in Germany is still completely healthy. The condition of Germany’s forests has never been worse. This is the conclusion of the recently published German Forest Condition Survey 2020.

To preserve forests and their ecological diversity in the future and to contribute to climate protection, conversion of forest is essential. Since the beginning of the year, the new working group “Sylvanus – Increasing resilience and reducing trade-offs during forest transformations” at ITAS has been dealing with this challenge.

The researchers examine, for example, possibilities to replace monocultures by mixed forests with new tree species. The group also addresses the question of how to reduce trade-offs during forest transformations – for example, between species diversity and economic yield. Furthermore, Sylvanus focuses on the social dimension of forests. Forest owners and policy makers as well as citizens are involved in the research.

First projects on forest fires and urban forests

The first projects already started before the group was established. In GreenLung, researchers use the example of Karlsruhe to investigate how the resilience of trees in urban areas can be improved. The ErWiN project focuses on how forest areas can recover more quickly from extreme heat stress and fires.

Sylvanus is led by forest scientist Somidh Saha. He worked as a forester in India for several years before earning his doctorate and working as a scientist at the University of Freiburg. Since 2017, Somidh Saha has been working at ITAS on, among other things, the challenges of sustainable forest management and issues of urban ecology. With his appointment as KIT Associate Fellow in October 2020, he can supervise doctoral theses at the Department of Civil Engineering, Geo and Environmental Sciences of KIT. (25.02.2021)

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