A pan-European forest mortality assessment using long satellite records

Funding: Austrian Science Fund (FWF)
Funding volume: 160,000 Euro
Period: 03/2019 – 02/2021


Accumulating evidence suggests increasing forest mortality across Europe as a consequence of past land use and ongoing climate change. However, the exact rates and trends of forest mortality remain elusive for Europe at the continental scale, mainly due to a scarcity of long-term mortality monitoring and the challenge of harmonizing national forest inventories. We aim at closing this knowledge gap by using long-term satellite records to reconstruct more than three decades of forest mortality across Europe and analyze its agents and patterns at the continental scale. Our research questions were:(1) Has forest mortality increased consistently across Europe? (2) What were the major agents of changing forest mortality? (3) What were the spatial patterns of forest mortality, and how did those spatial patterns change through time? To answer those questions, we address three specific objectives: (i) Use manual interpretation of long-term satellite records to estimate national-level forest mortality rates and trends over the time period 1984 to 2018. (ii) Attribute mortality trends to causal agents by integrating remote sensing and social-environmental data into a data-driven attribution approach. (iii) Map forest mortality consistently at a spatial grain of 30 m to allow for spatial pattern analysis of forest mortality events. We build on a rich set of methods and experiences gained during previous work focusing on six countries in Central Europe. However, we propose to extent our research to cover 35 European countries, four biomes (boreal, temperate, montane and Mediterranean forests), and more than 20 Million ha of forests.

Figure 1: A wind-throw in the Dolomites, Italy.

Project members and collaborators

Cornelius Senf (PI)
Rupert Seidl, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna