Cooperating to preserve beech forests in Europe

Greetings from the amazing Alps! My name is Lia and I am originally from Spain. After finishing my master’s studies in biodiversity and conservation I wanted to leave the academia for a while and try a new experience supporting a nature conservation NGO. That’s why when I came across the opportunity to volunteer in applied conservation, in one of the Interreg projects as an IVY volunteer, I couldn’t let the chance pass by.

So, in March, I packed a bit of clothes and a pair of hiking boots and changed my loved Mediterranean Sea for a little village called Tamsweg, in the middle of the Austrian Alps, to start volunteering at the European Wilderness Society.

As an IVY volunteer, I’m involved in the Interreg ‘BEECH POWER’ project, which aims to improve the management quality and effectiveness of the UNESCO World Heritage (WH) Site ‘Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe’. One of the big challenges of this WH Site is that comprises 78 component parts in 12 countries. Therefore, cooperation between the different component parts is essential in order to safeguard the integrity of the last old-growth beech forest in Europe.

These unique forests are not only of an incredibly beauty, but provide many ecosystem services vital to the livelihoods of the people that live near them. For this reason, BEECH POWER recognises the important role that local communities play and focuses on improving the capacities and participation of relevant stakeholders across five component countries: Austria, Croatia, Germany, Slovakia and Slovenia.

My tasks so far consist in supporting the communication strategy of the project by writing posts for the BEECH POWER website about workshops, seminars, the evolution and the results of the project. Further, we are preparing different content and activities to promote BEECH POWER to the general public and increase their knowledge and interest in European beech forests.

At the moment, we are also involved in the creation of an online exchange platform where the different parts can share relevant information, experiences and management plans. The aim is to facilitate and strengthen collaborations between practitioners and stakeholders of the different component parts.

Now you might think, is it a good idea to start a volunteering with all the craziness and changing Covid-19 regulations going on? Personally, this position has been a blessing for me. Tamsweg is a small town located in a Biosphere Reserve, surrounded by beautiful mountains and alpine forests. So, whenever I´m not in the office, I can go out together with my super international working team, and enjoy the endless options that nature has to offer. So far, I had a lot of fun learning to ski (without breaking anything – woho!), and I’m looking forward to summer season to do some proper hiking, climbing and enjoy the multiple lakes around the region.

So, to everyone out there who is having doubts about starting a new volunteering experience… Go for it! As I once read “Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that´s the one that is going to help you grow”.

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