Integrated and intelligent management of complex forests in South West Europe: COMFOR SUDOE and a call for case studies and projects

22 April 2021

Guest article from Paz Ferrer, on behalf of COMFOR SUDOE

Sout West Europe (SUDOE) needs healthy and functional forests that guarantee the provision of goods and services for rural and urban society. The COMFOR SUDOE (COMplex FORest) project seeks to promote complex (mixed and irregular) forests and multi-species plantations as a resilient and adaptive alternative to threats such as global climate change and biodiversity decline. These types of forests can increase, and in many cases, improve the potential quality of ecosystem services compared to other more simplified forest systems.

Complex forests – which include trees of different sizes, height, and age (mixed) and single species forests, but structurally-diverse (irregular) - offer a greater potential for generating environmental services than monoculture plantations (same species) or regular forests (even-aged and similar size). Traditionally, there is greater interest within the industry in promoting monoculture forests due to their productive and economic value, and they receive greater attention from the research community than complex forests. However, numerous investigations, initiatives and experiences developed in Europe show that complex forests can increase, and often, enhance benefits derived from ecosystem services compared to simplified forest systems.

This certainty does not exist in the case of the South West Europe region. This knowledge and innovation funding gap is the area that we are exploring as part of COMFOR SUDOE (an Interreg Program project).

Research in the SUDOE domain should help inform policies and intelligent management measures that promote the diversification of forest structures, ensuring knowledge transfer and a balance of effort in transnational research, development and innovation. For this reason, we will work for the next two years in application of cutting-edge technologies and methods in demonstration areas to generate evidence and knowledge that serve to inform policy leaders and land managers about intelligent management measures that favor the diversification of forest structures, guaranteeing the transfer of knowledge and the balance of the transnational R & D & I effort.

The specific objectives of the project are:

  • Quantify and socially and economically value the ecosystem services (biomass for energy, quality wood, carbon sequestration, habitat improvement and reduction of abiotic and biotic risks) of mixed plantations and irregular forests in the SUDOE.
  • Creation of the joint experimental network of mixed and irregular forests and plantations in the SUDOE. Capacity building and knowledge transfer.
  • Development of an intelligent specialisation strategy for the management of mixed plantations and irregular forests in SUDOE.
  • Encourage intelligent specialisation in the field of environmental services (risk management and biodiversity protection) and energy from renewable sources (biomass) of SUDOE, through knowledge networking, innovation and scientific exchange. Promote the technological value of complex forests (mixed and irregular) and mixed plantations as local assets of SUDOE.
  • Strengthening the synergistic and networked functioning of R&I at transnational level in the specific sectors of SUDOE based on intelligent specialisation

Call for case studies and projects

We invite experts, research organizations, academia, conservation entities and other social actors to propose papers and case studies on the identification of methodologies for the monetary and non-monetary valuation of natural capital and ecosystem services provided by complex forests, as well as projects integrating the monetary and non-monetary valuation of complex forests and mixed-species plantations into management models and decision-making – or whose application has resulted in significant changes in the habitats where valuation was conducted –.

Although the scope of this project is limited to SUDOE region, the call is also open to papers, case studies and projects developed in similar habitats in other places in the world.

The papers, case studies and projects received will be assessed according to objectives, scope, level of ambition, valuation (qualitative, quantitative and monetary), lessons learned and integration into the decision-making process. The focus will be on showcasing a variety of natural capital valuation methodologies for valuing the benefits provided by complex forest’s ecosystem services and that offer potential for replication.

The papers and case studies selected will be included in a technical report for land managers and policy makers and will be used to develop a decision tree to support decision-making to ensure the sustainable management of complex forests in South West Europe. On the other hand, the projects selected will be included in a compendium of best practices to support the development of an intelligent specialisation strategy for the conservation and sustainable management of complex forests in SUDOE.

How to submit a paper, case study or project

Provide a short description of the project, scope, level of ambition and valuation methodologies developed (qualitative, quantitative and monetary), including objectives, lessons learned, impacts and integration into the process decision-making (if applicable). This information can be shared on the basis of existing project documentation or via links to online information.

Please submit your case study by email to or by 17th of May 2021. 

Successful case studies to be profiled by COMFOR SUDOE will be notified before end of June 2021.

Please submit your project by email to or by 30th of June 2021.

Successful projects to be profiled by COMFOR SUDOE will be notified before end of July 2021.