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African Forests and People Need to Adapt to Climate Change


New Policy Brief Takes a View of Climate Change Impacts and Options for Adaptation  

Average annual temperatures in Africa have risen steadily over the past decades and an even higher increase is predicted for the years ahead. Current climate models project a mean temperature rise of 3–4°C across the continent by the end of this century, which would be approximately 1.5 times the global average increase. Do African forest ecosystems have a chance to adapt to such conditions and can they still provide the vital goods and services that people in Africa so strongly depend on? 

Today the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) has launched a Policy Brief that focuses exactly on these questions. The publication with the title “Making African Forests Fit for Climate Change: A regional View of Climate-Change Impacts on Forests and People and Options for Adaptation”, has been presented at the current fourteenth meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nairobi, Kenya. It is the result of cooperation between the IUFRO-led initiative “Global Forest Expert Panels” (GFEP) of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, the IUFRO Special Programme for Developing Countries (IUFRO-SPDC), and key experts from the Forestry Research Network for Sub-Saharan Africa (FORNESSA).

The Policy Brief underlines the crucial role that African forests play in supporting peoples’ livelihoods. The vast majority of rural populations in Africa rely on woody biomass as an energy source, and some 70-80% of Africans are estimated to depend on plant medicines for their healthcare to name but two examples. Now, however, climate change is putting sustainable development at risk. The achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, especially those related to environmental sustainability and the elimination of poverty and hunger, is threatened. Extreme events such as droughts and floods are expected to happen more often and the projected impacts on forest biodiversity and water quantity and quality will be severe. “Consequently, individuals, societies and institutions should be aware of the likely impacts of climate change on forests and should have adaptation strategies in place to address them”, concludes Dr. Victor Agyeman, Director of the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana and current Chairman of FORNESSA.

Of course, there are still major gaps in knowledge about the impacts of climate change on forests and people in Africa and about how adaptation measures can best be tailored to local conditions. In any case, it will be important to use participatory approaches to obtain a better understanding of local knowledge and perceptions of climate change. Moreover, new modes of governance should enhance effective stakeholder and community participation, transparent and accountable decision-making, and the equitable sharing of benefits. And thirdly, strategies for adapting forests to climate change must be coordinated with those of other sectors and integrated into national and regional development programmes and strategies. In general, climate change is adding to a range of other pressures on forest ecosystems in Africa, such as agricultural expansion and the over-use of forests. “It is obvious that measures that reduce such non-climatic human-induced pressures can help reduce the overall vulnerability of forest ecosystems”, says Dr. Stevy Makungwa, climate change expert at FORNESSA.

These are some of the key messages conveyed by the new African Policy Brief that is based on a detailed analysis of relevant information contained in the global assessment report “Adaptation of Forests and People to Climate Change” (IUFRO World Series Volume 22) and more than 250 additional literature references identified by African experts.

Forest-Monitoring: Linking Science and Policy

Committing finances to something as long-term as forest monitoring can be unsettling for politicians. Their careers hinge on regular elections – at short-term intervals.

Putting money into monitoring “makes good sense… But we need to show them that it makes sense,” said Konstantin von Teuffel, of the Forest Research Institute in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. “If, for example, politicians are to decide on subsidy programs, or decide on legislation or policies on climate change, they need to know what state the forests are in. And they need to know based on sound scientific measurements taken over a reasonably lengthy period of time, not assumptions.”

Dr. von Teuffel will coordinate a session linking long-term scientific forest monitoring to political decision-making at the 2010 IUFRO World Congress in Seoul.

He plans to build on information gathered in Buenos Aires at the World Forestry Congress last fall, where politicians and decision-makers involved in forest issues were asked about their expectations in regard to monitoring activities. “That input will be presented to the scientists in Seoul and we will discuss how best to respond to the policy makers’ needs,” he said. “We must show that monitoring is connected to real world decisions.”

He sees his session helping to increase awareness of the importance of long-term monitoring – the challenges, opportunities and priorities. It will bring together people from all continents and, he anticipates, result in a catalogue of guidelines that will allow researchers to group and prioritize forest-monitoring needs and also outline some best practices.

Taking Forestry “Uptown”

Forestry is moving out of the country and into the cities.

 

 

 

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“More than half the world’s population now lives in cities and towns and more forests are coming under urban influence. As foresters we’d better make sure we’re prepared to work in urban settings,” says Professor Cecil Konijnendijk of the University of Copenhagen.

Urban forests, in addition to making cities more attractive, promote human health and well-being, sequester carbon, filter pollutants from the air, provide shade, reduce wind and flooding, improve urban microclimates and protect urban drinking water resources.

“Urban forests and trees are part of the solution to some of the big issues of the day,” he says. “Think climate change, where urban vegetation can help cities adapt to higher temperatures, freak weather occurrences and the like; or trees producing food to help ease shortages in some developing countries.

“But,” says Professor Konijnendijk, who will coordinate a session on promoting urban forest partnerships between scientists and communities at the 2010 IUFRO World Forestry Congress in Seoul, “we still lack knowledge about how trees grow in urban settings and what their optimum contributions are or can be in terms of the goods and services they provide.

“We need to find how to protect, design and develop them in a better way. We, as scientists, have to collaborate closely with those who plan and manage our urban forests,” he says.

Bushmeat: Beyond the Ecological Crisis

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(Vienna, 15 February 2010) – Contemporary African societies are a mix of modernized, western society and traditional African roots. Those traditions mean that people – rural and urban – still consume bushmeat for reasons linked to culture, taste and attachment to healthy, natural products.

However, the scale of hunting occurring in Central Africa poses a threat to many tropical forest species. The response to this has typically been legal: ban the trade in bushmeat and criminalize the hunters and consumers.

This, said Nathalie Van Vliet, Bushmeat strategic advisor for TRAFFIC, has not been terribly effective. The trade continues to flourish but in a hidden economy that makes it more difficult to manage or control.

Those in the bushmeat trade who make money out of the commercialisation of rare species for the urban markets need to be strictly controlled. However, those who eat bushmeat for their own nutrition or sell bushmeat to pay for medicines or school fees, should not be presented as criminals,” she says.

Dr. Van Vliet will coordinate a session dealing with the hunting of bushmeat in Central Africa at the 2010 IUFRO World Congress in Seoul.

She hopes her session will reach beyond conservationists to also integrate the input of social, health and economic stakeholders to help develop more integrated bushmeat strategies and policies.

Full-Service Forests: Food, Pharmaceuticals & Fibre

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Managing for wildlife habitat, soil stability, water, medicinal plants and foods – nuts, berries, and mushrooms – as well as timber resources, are now all part of most forest development plans and goals.

Today’s forest management looks toward sustaining a variety of resources as well as revenue from timber products. That’s at least partly because “a diversity of plant and animal species can improve the ability of a stand to survive under dramatic changes in environmental conditions including climate change,” says Dr. Valerie LeMay, Professor of Forest Biometrics and Measurements at Canada’s University of British Columbia.

It’s a change from the past when forests were managed primarily for timber resources. Today’s forest managers realize that even the structure of a stand – the variation in tree heights, diameters, location and species and the number of dead trees standing or lying in it – is an important aspect of managing for multiple benefits, she said.

Large gaps in a tree stand, for instance, provide light for new tree growth, but also for grasses, herbs, shrubs and other vegetation that often provide food for deer and other wildlife.

The question though, is how best to manage all this? Dr. LeMay and Dr. Peter Newton, Research Scientist at Natural Resources Canada, will coordinate a session that deals with managing and measuring stand structure for a diverse array of forest products at the 2010 IUFRO World Congress in Seoul.

Expert Panel on International Forest Regime (GFEP)

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25 political scientists met in Vienna last week to start drafting the most comprehensive scientific report on the international forest regime. The report will be officially published in January 2011 on the occasion of the 9th session of the United Nations Forum on Forests.

More specifically, the assessment aims to contribute to

  • the international forest deliberations and international  forest-related processes such as the ninth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (January  2011), the tenth Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (October 2010), and the discussion on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD);
  • the improvement of coordination among political actors, policy instruments and institutions;
  • the International Year of Forests 2011 by raising awareness about the role of international instruments and institutions affecting forests.

PHOTOS FROM THE FIRST MEETING

Boreal and temperate forests: What will happen? What actions should be taken?

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Learning Event  – Organized by IUFRO and EFI (European Forest Institute) During Forest Day 3 in Copenhagen (UNFCCC-COP15)

Boreal and temperate forests are likely to be particularly affected by climate change because they are generally temperature-limited. With climate change advancing, their role as a major sink for atmospheric carbon is at risk. This session informed participants about this and other key impacts and vulnerabilities and discussed adaptation priorities and implications for forest management. The learning session also explored how lessons from the EU programme Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) could be used for forest-based climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Forests, Livelihoods & Climate Change

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A side event organized during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP15)

This joint event organized by IUFRO, ITTO (International Tropical Timber Organization) and Intercooperation (Swiss Foundation for Development and International Cooperation) will address the ongoing and new activities to promote social, economic and environmental benefits of forests that contribute to sustainable livelihoods in the framework of climate change mitigation, adaptation and ecosystem restoration.

Programme

 

Introduction

 

Introduction to the side event (Mr. Alexander Buck, IUFRO Deputy Executive Director)

 

International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO)

 

ITTO Thematic Programme on REDDES (Mr. Emmanuel Ze Meka, Executive Director of ITTO)

Voluntary Forest Carbon Offset Projects in Japan (Mr. Noriuki Kobayashi, Professor of Nihon University Law School, Japan)

Public-Private Partnership to promote REDD+ in Meru Betiri National Park, Indonesia (Ms. Nur Masripatin, Director of FORDA, MoF, Indonesia)

 

Intercooperation

Making REDD Happen in Reality – Experiences from the REDD-FORECA Pilot Project in Madagascar (Ms. Julia Randimbisoa – Climate change focal point in Madagascar)

 

International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO)

Will Forests Be Able to Stand the Heat? Main results of a global assessment (Mr. Peter Mayer, IUFRO Executive Director)

Making African Forests Fit for Climate Change – Key messages to policy and decision makers (Mr. Stephy David Makungwa, Chair of thematic group “Forests and Climate Change” of the Forestry Research Network for Sub-Saharan Africa)

IUFRO and FAO: 60 years of collaboration at the XIII World Forestry Congress

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The celebration of 60 years of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the International Union of Forest Research Organizations, IUFRO, and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, took place in conjunction with the XIII World Forestry Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

There has been long history of collaboration between IUFRO and FAO, which started with the signing of the MOU in 1949. FAO started working with International NGO’s shortly after its creation in the mid-1940s and at that time, it was even considered to incorporate IUFRO into FAO in order to formulate research aims more clearly, to avoid duplication of research projects, and to reduce costs.

While this consideration was not put into practice, in 1949 IUFRO worked out an agreement with the Forestry Department of FAO whereby IUFRO retained its independent status, but had a specialized consultative status with FAO. To this day, FAO has observer status on IUFRO’s Board (representation usually is through its Assistant Director General, in 2009, Jan Heino).

FAO and IUFRO are both committed to collaborate in some of the projects and programs with among others, the theme of forest education, forest terminology, and the role of science in national forest programs. Many IUFRO activities have been supported and until now are being assisted by FAO. For instance, IUFRO’s Special Program for Developing Countries (IUFRO-SPDC) was jointly established by IUFRO and FAO in 1983 and has since then served as a mechanism for research capacity development. Through IUFRO-SPDC, IUFRO provides assistance for the long-term development of the capacities of individual scientists and research institutions in developing countries. Together they have focused on the Forestry Research Network for Sub-Saharan Africa (FORNESSA).

During the last years, FAO and IUFRO have actively worked in the frame of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF). IUFRO as the leading organization of the Global Forest Information Service (GFIS) and the Global Forest Expert Panels (GFEP) highly appreciates the effort of FAO as chair organization of the CPF.

Please leave your comments on this article and to find out more information about IUFRO-FAO collaborations, we encourage you to visit IUFRO’s website.

Forests for the Future: Sustaining Society and the Environment

Human well-being is highly dependent on the well-being of the world’s forests. Among many other benefits, forests provide the resource for building materials and renewable energy, take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. They also protect against erosion and influence local and global climate. Many medicines are derived from forest plants.

The XXIII IUFRO World Congress from 23-28 August 2010 in Seoul, Korea, will be a great opportunity for researchers and decision-makers to learn, to share best practices, and to synthesize the newest and most innovative thinking on the forest challenges that affect all of us. Read more…

IUFRO - The International Union of Forest Research Organizations