LIFE HEALTHY FOREST - Early detection and advanced management systems to reduce forest decline caused by invasive and pathogenic agents

LIFE14 ENV/ES/000179

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Contact details:

Contact person: Eugenia Iturritxa
Tel: 34944034300
Fax: 34944034310
Email: eiturritxa@neiker.eus

Project description:


Forests are multifunctional: serving economic, social and environmental purposes. They offer habitats for animals and plants, and ecosystem services that provide environmental benefits and mitigate climate change. Nearly a quarter of the EU´s forest area is protected under the Natura 2000 network, and much of the rest is home to species protected under EU nature legislation. However, there is evidence that forests’ ecosystem health and vitality are seriously threatened. According to ‘State of Europe´s Forests 2011’ (Forest Europe), about a fifth of all trees in Europe are damaged or dead; while the considerable impacts caused by insect attack, fungal diseases and extreme weather conditions are predicted to worsen in the coming years due to climate change. The forests of the Basque Country are a fundamental pillar in the environmental and socio-economic development of the region. Forests cover around 68% of the surface area of the Basque Country and are mainly composed of pine and eucalyptus plantations. However, according to the ‘Fourth National Forest Inventory’, approximately 40% of these trees are damaged.


The main aim of the LIFE HEALTHY FOREST project is to design, apply and monitor advanced methodologies to achieve more sustainable forestry management at EU level; especially to prevent forest decline caused by invasive and pathogenic agents, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic impacts.

The specific objectives are:

  • To develop an innovative and unique integrated system for the early detection and evaluation of the impact of forest decline through a combination of expertise areas, from molecular biology to remote sensing techniques;
  • The implementation of the early detection system in large-scale demonstration plots, to give a comprehensive overview of the status of forest health as a knowledge base for EU policy. This system encompasses field monitoring and sampling, morphological, molecular and physiological techniques, and remote sensing. It will have a positive effect on biodiversity by intervening against invasive and pathogenic agents that are directly related to forest decline and mortality. A guide book will be produced to explain the system;
  • The implementation of accurate and cost-effective sustainable forest management techniques based on the results of the innovative early-detection system, adapted to different pathogenic organisms and scenarios of forest decline;
  • The development and implementation of GIS infrastructure, focused on the combined use of diagnostic methods, remote sensing, silvicultural treatments and biological control, to reduce damage caused by invasive and pathogenic organisms. This will consist of a web-based information system for technicians of the forestry administration and technical staff of forest owners associations, as well as software tools for forest health researchers;
  • The provision of baseline data and information on the status of forest decline at different scales of analysis in relation to the main invasive and pathogenic agents;
  • The involvement of public and private stakeholders to achieve replicability and transferability at EU level, as well as to increase awareness in the general public about the importance of sustainable forests; and
  • The contribution to the objectives of the New EU Forest Strategy and the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020.
  • Expected results: As a result of the application of the early detection system and the use of the GIS infrastructure, the following outcomes are expected:

  • An improvement of 35% in detection capacity and diagnostics. The combination of optimised techniques and protocols will enable substantial progress, by increasing the capacity to evaluate impacts, identify pathogens and define the sustainable management cost per hectare;
  • An increase in the production and quality of wood is expected (c. 15%), as well as the botanical and fauna diversity (10-20%), resulting from the combination of detection and management system implementation;
  • An improvement in the forest health conditions and management of ≥25% by means of an early detection system taking into account the reduction of the environmental and economic impact resulting from both the attack of invasive and pathogenic agents and the inappropriate application of management strategies; and
  • A reduction in overall costs of around 20%, and an increase of 25% of the environmental, economic and social benefits due to the implementation of the innovative systems of detection and management of invasive and pathogenic agents.



Environmental issues addressed:


Information - Governance - Environmental training - Capacity building
Land-use & Planning - Forest management


forest management

Target EU Legislation

  • Land & Soil
  • Regulation 2152/2003 - Monitoring of forests and environmental interactions in the Community (For ...

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator NEIKER-Instituto Vasco de Investigación y Desarrollo Agrario
Type of organisation Research institution
Description The Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development, Neiker-Tecnalia, is a non-profit organisation funded by the economic development and competitiveness department of the Basque Government.
Partners HAZI(Fundación Hazi Fundazioa), Spain DEX(Desarrollo de Estrategias Exteriores, S.A.), Spain FSU(Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena), Germany


Project reference LIFE14 ENV/ES/000179
Duration 02-NOV-2015 to 30-APR -2019
Total budget 1,487,960.00 €
EU contribution 892,776.00 €
Project location País Vasco(España)


Read more:

Project web site Project's website
Video link LIFE 25th anniversary: Overview of LIFE projects with involvement of Neiker = 25 años de LIFE: Resumen de la participación de Neiker (4')


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version