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Earth Day 2023 – Monitoring and responding to the effects of the climate crisis

The case of Italy: Campania and Sardinia from The Hut and FORWARDS, two new EU-funded research projects

The theme for Earth Day 2023 is ‘Invest in our Planet’. To invest in the planet and future generations, and two Italian projects funded by the European Union, The Human Tech Nexus (The HuT) and FORWARDS, aim precisely at protecting health, families and the environment; innovating to try to reverse the course of climate change.


The Human Tech Nexus (The HuT) was set up to improve prevention to manage risk and is coordinated by the University of Salerno and includes 26 partners from 12 European countries, including in Italy the CMCC Foundation – Euro-Mediterranean Centre on Climate Change, the National Research Council, ICONS, Leithà Unipol, the Municipality of Sorrento and Confagricoltura Nuoro Ogliastra. The HuT involves 10 areas in Europe where new ways to limit/manage climate change risks will be tested. In Italy, the area between the Sorrento Peninsula, the Amalfi Coast and the Monti Lattari, in Campania, and Ogliastra in Sardinia have been identified as case studies. The promoters explain that “In Europe, in the last 40 years, extreme weather events have caused economic losses estimated at 446 billion euro, 81% of total losses were caused by natural hazards. It is therefore imperative to find effective strategies to manage the risks associated with extreme weather events”. In The HuT project, European research groups, institutions and stakeholders work together to integrate and leverage best practices and successful multidisciplinary experiences. The main ambition of the project is to promote a set of transdisciplinary risk management tools and approaches that can be adopted and used in the widest range of situations. Specific attention will be paid to assessing the transferability of innovations developed in territorial contexts and affected by specific climate issues. The ultimate goal: to support communities, institutions and stakeholders in mitigating the risk associated with phenomena induced by extreme weather events, particularly in the phases of forecasting and disaster prevention.


In the Lattari Mountains, people and property are seriously threatened by weather conditions, including debris flows; flash floods in very small and orographically complex basins; landslides and rockfalls on roads and railways; hail and storms on crops; and forest fires (often caused by man, but exacerbated by soil dryness and heat waves). In this area, The HuT aims to improve the assessment and observation of weather forcing and associated impacts on the territory; make stakeholders more aware of the risks (especially tourists who are unfamiliar with these hazards); and support the design and planning of climate protection measures.


Ogliastra is characterised by forests and agricultural land and, although it is a difficult area to reach, it has a growing tourism. The area is affected by heat waves of drought and fires that threaten lives, infrastructure, forest goods and services, livestock, villages and tourism. In July 2019, several fires burned 600 hectares within the urban interface, forcing about 5,000 people to leave their homes. In 2021, the burnt area increased by 250% compared to the average for the period 2008 – 2020 in Italy. The project wants to assist policy and decision makers in defining effective adaptation pathways to reduce the impacts and costs of fires, adopting science-based tools; develop strategies to integrate disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA); and make local communities and users more aware of risks (e.g. tourists unfamiliar with forest fires).


In various parts of the world, climate change has already had a deleterious impact on forest ecosystems and forestry. The FORWARDS project, with a total budget of EUR 14 million and some 20 partners coordinated by the Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet, aims at sustainable forest management and resource utilisation in response to climate change, in the belief that ‘Healthy trees mean healthy citizens: everyone benefits from clean forest air, safe food and water, and recreational spaces’.


FORWARDS envisages the implementation of the ForestWard Observatory, a pan-European monitoring and assessment tool that will help demonstrate the impact of climate change on forests, while providing timely and detailed information on the vulnerability of Europe’s forests. The project will also provide insights to increase the adoption of Climate-Smart Forestry (CSF) good management practices, restore ecosystems and conserve biodiversity. Indeed, forests and society are able to transform, adapt and mitigate climate-induced changes.