Published on 30 April 2015
The significant and potentially dramatic impact of climate change on forests, while well understood by foresters and scientists, is frequently overlooked in mainstream discussions, said Ben Gunneberg, CEO of PEFC International, on Earth Day today.
“Yet given the effect it will have on communities and ecosystems, we need to bring discussions about how to move towards ‘climate change adapted communities’ and ‘climate change resilient landscapes’ into the mainstream,” urged Mr. Gunneberg.
“When it comes to forests and climate change, the focus tends to be on the benefits that forests and forest products provide by absorbing and storing carbon and, conversely, on carbon emissions from such deforestation,” said Mr Gunneberg, speaking from the ICF National Conference 2015 “Tree Health, Resilience & Sustainability” in Cardiff, Wales, today.
“We need to become much better in communicating that climate change is threatening the health of forests around the world and that climate change has a significant impact on tree health, to enable us to be better prepared and better adapted.”
Forests are generally understood to have four major roles in climate change, summarizes the FAO:
they currently contribute about one-sixth of global carbon emissions when cleared, overused or degraded;
when managed sustainably, they produce wood fuels as a benign alternative to fossil fuels;
they have the potential to absorb about one-tenth of global carbon emissions projected for the first half of this century into their biomass, soils and products and store them - in principle indefinitely; and finally
they react sensitively to a changing climate.
The devastating effects of climate change on forests are already very much visible for example in British Columbia, Canada, where slightly warmer winters have enabled more pine beetles to survive, ruining millions of hectares of forests, with the associated effects on the environment, communities, and businesses.
“It won’t be possible for British Columbia to get its harsh winter back, or reverse climate change impacts on forest health elsewhere in the world. What we need to do is to adapt forest management to climate change. PEFC’s national processes, which are aimed at bringing all stakeholders to the table to evolve our common understanding of sustainable forest management, are well-placed to facilitate the exchange of information and knowledge, to capture best practices, and to contribute to the discussion,” emphasized Mr. Gunneberg.