In December 2021, the European Forest Institute (EFI) launched SUPERB, or “Systemic solutions for upscaling of urgent ecosystem restoration for forest-related biodiversity and ecosystem services.” SUPERB is the largest Horizon 2020 project the EU has funded under the Green Deal, with 36 highly renowned institutes, organizations and Universities partnered up and contributing their knowledge and vast experience to carry out concrete restoration actions.
SUPERB focuses on creating and maintaining diverse and healthy forests that harbor the majority of European biodiversity, provide a multitude of ecosystem services for society and present robust and cost-efficient nature-based solutions for climate change mitigation.
Land Life is part of the consortium, working with other members using applied science on our projects in Spain and Portugal. To learn more about the goals, objectives and partnerships, we sat down with Land Life’s CTO, Arnout Asjes and Head of the Resilience Program at the EFI, Elisabeth Pötzelsberger. We covered a lot of ground, speaking with them both about the thought process behind the initiative, SUPERB’s main objectives and future goals and how Land Life will contribute to this. We hope you enjoy the read and relish the insight into this incredible initiative as much as we do!
Hi Elisabeth, SUPERB is obviously working towards some really important goals, could you tell us a bit about why it is necessary to have this kind of initiative in the first place?
Reforesting Europe in the correct way is of critical importance. To that end, EFI has been working on tackling several challenges that come with that, such as the integration of conservation and restoration of biodiversity into forest management whilst taking climate change adaptation into consideration. Another important issue was how to bring together scientific and practical knowledge and experience and how to increase forest resilience in a site-adapted manner. With the selected consortium, (SUPERB), we bring together renowned scientists and also practice experts covering all relevant disciplines from across Europe.
– Elisabeth Pötzelsberger
To that end, what would you say are SUPERB’s main objectives?
SUPERB’s overall goal is to create an enabling environment for and demonstrate large-scale restoration of forests and forest landscapes across Europe. Specific objectives cover the following:
What makes SUPERB unique?
I would say that its the honest ambition to deliver transformative change, its broad multidisciplinary approach, and the involvement of key stakeholders from practice to policy-making level from across Europe. Already for the proposal submission, we had received 90 letters of support from a broad range of stakeholders – our Associate Partners – who had in total made commitments to support the project worth over 90 million Euros and made available 3 million hectares of land to perform SUPERB restoration approaches.
Arnout, what motivated Land Life to decide to join SUPERB?
As Elisabeth mentioned, reforestation in Europe in the correct way is of critical importance, particularly after the latest realizations reported by the most recent IPCC report. Policy is essential for developing a strategy to plant trees (where trees are needed) most effectively and efficiently. A series of political commitments are already in place at the European level, such as the European Green Deal, the EU Biodiversity Strategy, and the EU Forest Strategy.
As a science-driven nature restoration company, Land Life’s objectives fit very well with the overall SUPERB objectives. We are the only private sector partner in the consortium and are excited to collaborate with such prestigious institutes and academic bodies throughout the EU. Not least because of the biodiversity principles that will be guiding in the large-scale project demonstrations. We believe that collaboration is key to achieving transformative change on the ground.
Elisabeth, what role do you see for Land Life going forwards?
Land Life is a key innovative practice partner in our consortium, that allows us to test the benefits of an established CO2 business model that will be expanded by SUPERB’s biodiversity metrics. Land Life also has very relevant experience on how to connect landowners, different policy making levels, scientific knowledge hubs like universities and locallly as well as globallly acting NGOs to make action happen on the ground. SUPERB will not only implement promised restoration measures on some hundred hectares in each of the 12 demos, but we shall initiate the upscaling of such restoration measures on thousands of hectares and more. Land Life will have a role to play, to offer restoration services at large scale.
Elisabeth, what are the main challenges you see looking down the road in the coming years?
The most pressing challenges will be to increase societal cohesion and raise awareness for trade offs in policy objectives and the need to allow for locally adapted approaches which can only be sustainably implemented with the support of local practitioners and local communities. We also live in a time of increasing mistrust between key stakeholders up to highest political level, which delays clear signals and support to solutions that benefit both nature and people and respect ownership rights. Payment for ecosystem services delivered by functioning forests are a highly needed incentive that practitioners keep waiting for to make them less dependent on the timber markets.
Finally, when will you both consider the consortium to be a success?
Elisabeth: There will be many different levels and layers of success It ranges from building trustful relationships with local communities as an essential prerequisite for jointly developing solutions for the local restoration challenges up to providing crucial input into the political debate at international and EU level, supporting the development of more targeted and effective policies, legislation and other incentives for the governance, financing and implementation of forest restoration.
Arnout: For Land Life, joining the consortium is already a success as we now have a platform to bring science and practice together which is an important step to achieve the overall objective of creating an environment for large-scale forest restoration in Europe. Our involvement is extremely exciting, as it not only allows us to put our scientific research and technology into practice but also further aids us in constantly improving the quality and efficiency of our projects.
Thank you both.