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ICP Forests

International Cooperative Programme on
Assessment and Monitoring of Air Pollution Effects on Forests

Chair: Mr. Michael Köhl

Head of Programme Centre: Mr. Walter Seidling

ICP Forests was set up to monitor the effects of air pollution on Europe's forests. The objectives of ICP Forests are:

  • to monitor effects of anthropogenic (in particular air pollution) and natural stress factors on the condition and development of forest ecosystems in Europe, and
  • to contribute to a better understanding of cause-effect relationships in forest ecosystem functioning in various parts of Europe.

The programme is planned and coordinated by a Task Force under the leadership of Germany with the cooperation of a Programme Coordinating Centre (at the Federal Research Centre for Forestry and Forest Products, in Hamburg, Germany). There are currently 41 countries participating in the work.

Since 1986, ICP Forests has conducted an annual transnational survey of forest condition in Europe, from 1991 in close cooperation with the European Commission (EC). This transnational survey aims to document the development of forest condition at the European level rather than on the national scale. This is accomplished by means of annual large-scale monitoring of tree vitality (6 000 sample plots with about 130 000 sample trees) and a number of site parameters on a uniform 16 km x 16 km transnational grid of sample plots (known as "level I" monitoring). In addition to tree vitality surveys, soil and foliar analyses are performed on parts of these level I plots.

In order to contribute to a better understanding of air pollution and other factors which may influence forest ecosystems, a programme for intensive and continuous monitoring of forest ecosystems (level II) has been implemented. In this context 860 permanent observation plots for intensive monitoring of forest ecosystems have been established across Europe. The intensive monitoring includes the assessment of crown condition, increment and chemical composition of foliage and soils on all plots. Additional measurements on a limited number of plots include (i) atmospheric deposition (60% of the plots), (ii) meteorological parameters (20% of the plots), (iii) soil solution chemistry (30% of the plots), ground vegetation assessments (expected on 70% of the plots) as well as ambient air quality. Within each of these surveys, a number of mandatory and optional parameters has been defined. Additional surveys which are not denoted as either mandatory or optional, are also carried out in many countries, such as aereal photography and studies on phenology, phytopathology, litter-fall, dendochronology, lichens, mosses, insects and fungi, as well as more intensive monitoring such as gas exchange, root damage, etc. This monitoring activities are organized by ICP Forests and the EC and performed by individual countries. The data from the level II intensive monitoring plots are currently stored and maintained at the Programme Coordinating Centre.

Further information is available from the Programme Centre.