During the storm, the wind reached bewildering speeds of 180/190 km/h (maximum speed verified at Manghen pass) and about 60 cm of rain fell in only three days. That accounts to 60 % of the yearly rainfall rate (i.e., one meter of water). Luckily, the Fall and winter of 2018 were not harsh and allowed local forest rangers to take immediate action. Thanks to its secular heritage in forest management, the Fiemme valley forestry agency was on the forefront to remove the first trees obstructing the major roads and later to reestablish the entire road network .
Unremoved fallen trees can be infected by forest pests, such as the bark beetle (Ips typographus). The beetles can penetrate into the bark and feed on the meristem, the only living tissue of plants. Once it takes over the tree, it can then attack neighboring trees, and spread also to standing trees, thus augmenting the damage. This happened also after Vaia .
“Given their high vulnerability to bark beetles, the number of Norway spruce forests should be reduced and replaced by more diversified forest types” admitted forest ranger Ilario Cavada during the field trip. “Both Trentino’s forests and the 20,000 hectares of forests managed by the Fiemme valley forest agency house too many Norway spruces, which can live up to 500 years but are more exposed to dangerous forest infections and can therefore weaken the entire ecosystem” continued Cavada.
Integrating larches and spruces can be a optimum strategy against bark beetle infections and was the solution adopted by the Fiemme agency to restore the damaged areas. All available Italian forestry companies were first contacted, then also foreign companies because the workload to recover the fallen trees and plant the new ones is immense. Currently, the agency is growing about 600,000 seedlings of different species that will replace the fallen trees. To date, only 60 hectares of woods have been restored.
Forest conservation is perhaps the most known and appreciated form of environmental protection. Indeed, forests provide dozens of forest services but it is commonly said that they have a double purpose: they secure the soil hydrogeological stability, and they favor the biodiversity and the ecosystem.
Understanding the importance of forests and sustainable forest management was a key result of the project. It is hard to say, but “thanks” to Vaia, 20 students were given a down-to-earth learning experience about reforestation. They could broaden their knowledge and perspective on the impact of human activities on Alpine forests and all the living beings that depend on it.