MOUNTFOR addresses issues of thematic importance through a “bottom‐up” approach, which are developed towards "top‐down" requests for associate members of EFI to offer expertise for topics considered strategically relevant.
The overall activity is established according to five working groups (WGs), each WG being responsible for different tasks, deliverables and milestones. Three different tasks are considered in each WG to assure quality results, thematic integration and effective impacts.

WG1 - 
Monitoring and inventorying ecosystem services

Mountain forests provide diverse ecosystem services, including provisioning services (e.g., timber extraction), regulating and supporting services (e.g., carbon sequestration), and cultural services. Productive functions are well recognized due to their economic contribution. However, regulating and supporting services such as reliable water supplies, protection against natural hazards, and mitigation of climate change, and their flow to beneficiaries, represent the most important functions of mountain forests to communities living within and around mountain regions. On both continental and regional scales, a key role of Europe’s mountains is as centres of biological diversity and intercultural knowledge. Cultural services are vital for mountain people and lowland communities, particularly as sustainable mountain recreation and tourism increase in importance. The dilemma of assigning value to these services in a market economy stems from the fact that there is no clear market relation between provider and customer. Water may be the single one commodity that has the most direct economic value. However, as the lack of appropriate data inventory and the heterogeneity and uncertainty in the interrelationships between physical properties of the landscape and ecosystem services of mountain forests has an exponential increase, the supply and demand of these services require harmonized monitoring and reporting systems of their assets.

The activity of WG1 consists on:

  • gathering the state-of-the-art of existing scientific knowledge on ecosystem services and their environmental and economic efficiency, implementing also their monitoring;
  • identifying the forest management practices that may improve timber utilization, while saving water resources and increasing carbon sink;
  • identifying the structural characteristics of mountain forests and compensatory mechanisms that can guarantee biodiversity conservation, and in identifying the linkages between mountain forest and human health.

WG2 - Impact, adaptation, and mitigation

Mountain forests are characterised by good resistance to environmental disturbances, though with a low resilience in case of extreme events. Building on modelling efforts and experimental sites, in the next months and years MOUNTFOR provides forecasts of specific changes across Europe and overseas, which in turn provides the scientific basis for developing descriptions of future ecosystem conditions in mountain environments. MOUNTFOR applies an integrated ecosystem approach to research how mountain ecosystems respond, now and in the future, to climate variability and change. The investigation of spatial and temporal aspects of ecosystem dynamics, with emphasis on understanding and distinguishing processes controlled by climate versus processes modulated by local or regional characteristics, need to be directed to develop and synthesize empirical and modelled results to infer the resilience of mountain forests to climate change, establishing hub for a worldwide mountain forest partnership, within the strategy of EFI.

The activity of WG2 consists on:

  • contributing to the production of scientifically based decision criteria on mountain forest management, under the guidance of EFI;
  • revising integrated watershed management and monitoring programs to synthesize and implement existing data basis to mitigate the impacts of climate change on mountain forest productivity, soil protection, water regime, biodiversity conservation, and environmental services;
  • developing local adaptation measures (policy measures, instrument guidelines, management options) to enhance forest ecosystem health and sustainability, and ensure the flow of ecosystem services;
  • implementing permanent experimental and demonstration sites in forested catchments and agroforestry systems at a variety of scale and with a diversity of tools, integrating global research infrastructures.

WG3 - Water resources

Despite the significant advances in scientific understanding of forest and water interactions, the role of forests in relation to the sustainable management of water resources remains a contentious issue. Development of integrated water resource management can also guarantee the preservation of forests and their role in enhancing water yields and water quality. This is why management of forested catchments should be studied as first priority. Ecohydrology couples climate-caused changes in mountain hydrology with the responses of forest vegetation and disturbance. Changes in glaciers, snowpacks, streamflow, and water quality directly affect terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and changes in water relations in the coupled atmosphere-soil system affect vegetation through stress and altered disturbance regimes. MOUNTFOR will developed empirical studies focusing on mountain watersheds, in which vegetation responses are especially sensitive to disturbances.

The activity of WG3 consists on:

  • collecting data on consequences of altered mountain forest biogeochemistry and hydrology;
  • quantifying the large-scale influences on extent and severity of fires and other natural hazards, and relative contributions of host vulnerability and beetle population dynamics to extent and severity of outbreaks;
  • quantifying the interactions between mountain hydrology, forest type, and soil erosion and understanding the linkages between plant–water relations and the hydrologic cycle.

WG4 - Socio-economic development and governance

Recent policy options have suggested that local people could meet their long-term demands by incorporating ecosystem services in management practices. The timber industry and other commercial users, such as water and tourism companies, have key roles to play in developing approaches for sustainable management and green engineering. The sustainable use and mobilization of wood will be quantified through analysis of supply and demand in selected woodsheds. A multi-stakeholders discussion on crucial forest issues will be pursued, endorsing a mountain-specific market for carbon and water credits. MOUNTFOR wants to design appropriate measures towards supporting and enabling policy settings to promote local resource management.

The activity of WG4 consists on:

  • measuring the economic drawbacks due to the mountain context, analyzing the management cost and price formation, studying the improvement of assessment procedures and their application to the mountain context, considering possible market niches for specific products and the valorisation of non-market benefits from ecosystem services;
  • elaborating and discussing of an operative framework including indicators of good governance adapted to mountain forests (participatory process of defining objectives of management, ToSIA analysis for policy guidance), on the analysis of initiative for the compensation of local communities for their stewardship considering long-term trends, such as climate change and human wellbeing;
  • identifying possible strategies or alternatives for developing policy instruments and governance mechanisms adapted to mountain forests, through stakeholders analysis, negotiation of priority options and inventory of forest related payments for environmental services, with the aim to incorporate mountain-specific policies into national sustainable development strategies.

WG5 - Dissemination, promotion and outreach

MOUNTFOR will contribute to the capacity building of partners through the organization of workshops, training, and collaborative research. A primary means for knowledge transfer to land managers will be the website, seminars and workshops conducted as case studies for developing and implementing adaptation options. An international doctoral school on mountain forestry and agroforestry systems (implementing the experience matured by core partners) will play a key role in identifying drawbacks for effective transfer mechanisms between research achievements and final application by end users. Specific strategies for shaping forest communication in mountain regions will be implemented, in support of EFI’s goals.

The activity of WG5 consists on:

  • supporting the building of a public visibility of MOUNTFOR network and plant the interactions with the research community, resource managers, media, and the general public;
  • developing a procedure for inclusion of expert partners, including participation in the research training of undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate students for the sustainable management of mountain forest resources;
  • contributing to the scientific literature and synthesis of peer-reviewed findings in common language articles and organizing fact sheets.