WHY LIFE VAIA
Storms, floods, fires: the occurrence of extreme weather events, with the dramatic repercussions they have on our territories, is evidence of climate change in recent decades.
An example of this is the storm VAIA, which hit north-eastern Italy in 2018 and caused extensive damage to mountain areas and their delicate ecosystems.
The extremely strong wind, which reached speeds of up to 200 km/h for several hours, caused millions of trees to crash to the ground, resulting in the destruction of tens of thousands of hectares of alpine coniferous forests.
An estimated 42 million trees were blown down over an area of 41,000 hectares.
The LIFE VAIA project (Valuing Afforestation of damaged woods with Innovative Agroforestry), stems from the need to restore forest areas and increase the ecological, economic and social resilience of forest ecosystems damaged by extreme climatic events. With a duration of five years and a total budget of EUR 6 million, of which EUR 3 million has been allocated by the European Commission, the LIFE VAIA project aims to develop an innovative approach based on the application of ‘temporary’ agroforestry measures (15/20 years). This strategy makes it possible to invest in the production of sustainable and low-impact products, increasing biodiversity and the sustainable use of resources.
The LIFE VAIA project envisages the development of innovative intervention techniques for the reconstruction of forests, through which the adaptation of forest vegetation to climate change can be promoted. The highly innovative element of the project is the use of the agroforestry strategy as a solution to cope, in the short and long term, with the damage caused by extreme climatic events. This strategy makes it possible to invest in the production of organic products with minimal impact, increasing biodiversity and the sustainable use of resources (energy through renewable sources and water through rainwater harvesting). In addition, the production strategy focused on local resources and the rehabilitation of damaged areas make it possible to limit the economic damage suffered by the communities living in the affected areas.
OBJECTIVES – SUMMARY
1) Innovative agroforestry procedures
2) Forest reconstruction
3) Climate change adaptation strategy
4) Protection of biodiversity
6) Enhancement of forest ecosystems
7) Increasing the ecological, economic and social resilience of damaged forest ecosystems
The main actions financed by LIFE VAIA concern the reproduction and cultivation of wild blueberries and other ‘wild’ small fruits, food and medicinal plants in forest ecosystems, as well as the enhancement of bee production in forest areas destroyed by the storm. The production strategy focused on local resources and the readaptation of the damaged areas make it possible to limit the economic damage suffered by the communities living in the affected areas by developing innovative silviculture and value-added products.
The actions of the project, to be pursued in 16 pilot sites (of about 2.5 hectares each) distributed in Italy, Spain, and France, are part of the European Union’s broader environmental strategy aimed at protecting forests from damage caused by climate change, strengthening local ecosystems, and protecting biodiversity.
SUPPORTING RURAL COMMUNITIES
Not only trees, but also people. The project also aims to create new opportunities for the communities living in the damaged areas, fostering economic and social resilience. The involvement of citizens in forest reconstruction, the enhancement of organic farming and beekeeping activities in the affected areas aims to limit the damage suffered by local populations and promote productive recovery in the medium and long term.
FUTURE WITH LIFE VAIA
What future thanks to LIFE VAIA?
The innovative ecosystem-based approach consisting of the implementation of temporary/transitional (15/20 years) agroforestry up to the growth of forest trees can lead to:
- address in a short time most of the negative effects caused to the environment by tree destruction (e.g. erosion, mineralisation of organic matter, loss of biodiversity);
- accelerate the reconstruction of forest ecosystems, combining natural and artificial reforestation concepts in order to promote the creation of stable ecosystems with high ecological value, while protecting biodiversity
- improve the resilience of forest environments and their ability to adapt to climate change
- create opportunities for sustainable economic development to halt depopulation in areas where disruptive events have occurred