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As the seasons change so too it appears does the incidence of storms, landslides and floods that all too often accompany fall and spring weather.

September saw many events across the globe of landslides taking the lives of people from Wales, Uganda, Philippines and more. Similarly floods accompanying hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones and tropical storms battered coastal communities causing millions of dollars in damage in Mexico, the US and elsewhere with loss of life. Earthquakes were also not far from the news causing damage in Sulawesi in Indonesia in October and causing severe landslides in Palu. Mallorca in Spain felt the impacts of a very large flash flood and violent storms have lashed France in recent days. You can see more on Dave Petley’s Landslide Blog.

October also saw the release of the Special Report on Global Warming from the IPCC that governments approved a 1.5⁰C limit to global warming. Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I, Panmao Zhai said “One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes”.

Whatever the reason, climate change or just natural variation in the weather, natural hazards are here to stay, and will continue to disrupt the lives of people around the globe. The work of ecorisQ and its members as well as those in similar organisations becomes ever more important as society aims to understand, respond to, or manage these many natural hazards.

IMG 1763This year, abundant rainfall triggered numerous shallow landslides in a protection forest area burnt in 2011, causing damages to infrastructures and the interruption of roads. The stand replacing fire caused the almost complete loss of root reinforcement that did contribute to slope stability within few years, as documented in Vergani et al. (2017). After such forest disturbance, models such as SOSlope can be used to localize critical unstable areas and to optimize the plan of measures to enhance the recovery of forest protection effectiveness. Recent studies have shown that such forest needs 40 to 80 years to recover their protection function, without influence of ungulates. In these cases, targeted measures can considerably reduce the time window of increased landslide probability. 

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alpessudToday, the Swiss forestry association (SFV) celebrated its 175th anniversary. Founded in 1843, three decades before the enactment of the first forest law in Switzerland (Forestry Police in high mountains law, 1876), the association was founded to counter overexploitation of mountain forests, which increasingly led to flooding hazards. A major objective of the SFV back then was, and still is, defined as the conservation of forests to ensure a sustainable protection against natural hazards, such as torrential floods, snow avalanches, rockfall, shallow landslides and excessive erosion. Today, in addition, forests have to produce sufficient wood and fiber resources (e.g., as a piece in the huge puzzle of the solution for today's plastic pollution problem), they supply biodiversity, recreation and drinking water and have a cooling effect during heat waves, which increasingly occur.

During the opening speech of the anniversary seminar "Visions for the forest", Doris Leuthard, Swiss Minister of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications, stressed the importance of the role forests play in reducing natural hazard risks. Moreover, climate change complicates the task of properly managing these protection forests, since intensities and frequencies of natural hazards increase in given areas. At the same time, disturbances, such as droughts, forest fires, or invasive insects and tree species gain importance as well, she said. Especially in combination with all other services forests need to provide, the task becomes complex and the potential for future conflicts is rising. Solutions can be found by teaming up policy makers, practitioners and scientists. Right there, associations such as SFV and ecorisQ can provide an enourmous added-value by taking the lead in connecting and mobilising experience and scientific knowledge.