Archive for the ‘IUFRO Spotlight’ Category

IUFRO Spotlight #86 – Analyzing the complicated forest-water relationship

IUFRO Spotlight #86 – Analyzing the complicated forest-water relationship

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Riparian vegetation and landscape in Mongolia, a country where freshwater resources are scarce – Photo by Alexander Buck, IUFRO

More than 500 years ago Leonardo da Vinci said: “Water is the driving force of all nature.”

There is a corollary that could easily be added to da Vinci’s truism: Water is greatly aided and abetted in that role by forests.

Forests play an integral role in the water cycle by enhancing the world’s supply of clean water. Much of the globe’s freshwater is provided through forested catchments.

Forests protect water quality, flow regimes, aquatic systems, soil and have critical interactions with climate.

Any forest changes, whether through nature or through human action, can significantly affect water resources and water-related ecological functions and services, often in a negative fashion.

A recent global assessment on forests and water demonstrated that forests, water and climate should all be assessed and managed in an integrated way at all spatial and temporal scales.

The assessment also identified critical research gaps among which forests/forest carbon, climate and water interactions and their effects on forest water use, water supply and flow regime were seen as among the top emerging priorities.

One result of that assessment has been a IUFRO Task Force (TF): Forests and Water Interactions in a Changing Environment, organized to focus specifically on those research gaps.

“The relationship between forests and water is complicated,” said Dr. Adam Wei of the Department of Earth, Environmental and Geographic Science at the University of British Columbia, Canada, and coordinator of the TF.

“There are large variations in the forest-water relationship due to the interactions and feedbacks of climate, forests and watershed properties. In addition, the relationship is not only about science, but also about cultures, policy and governance. What all that means is that we need a systematic approach to look at all the interactions effectively.

“Fortunately, in our TF we have a good, mixed pool of expertise from all continents – world-leading scientists in their respective fields – and we include some experts from the social sciences and policy areas.”

The TF will examine interactions and feedbacks of forests and water in a broad context that will consider impacts of – and on – climate, variability and change, as well as emerging climate change mitigation strategies, markets and adaptive forest and water management.

“Climate change,” said Prof. Richard Harper, from Australia’s Murdoch University and a deputy coordinator of the TF, “is a significant issue. Not only does it directly affect water supplies, but it also indirectly influences water by its impact on forests through disturbance such as wildfire, drought and mortality.

“To address climate change impacts and sequester more carbon in forests, large-scale reforestation projects are proposed, and some are being implemented. Similarly, there are ambitious international forest restoration targets. However, while restoration is becoming an important activity globally, in some regions it can cause reductions in water yields and, if not done properly, may also affect water quality.

Leaf area is an important measure for the water use of trees- © iStock: Keikona.

“As one example, reforestation or afforestation can reduce the total annual water yield from a watershed, because more trees transpire more water. This results in smaller amounts of water in rivers or in groundwater systems.

“On the other hand,” Prof. Harper continued, “forest restoration activities can have beneficial effects on other hydrological variables, for instance, decreasing peak flows so there’s less chance of flooding. There are also well-documented examples of improvements in watershed water quality.

“What it all means is that we need to take a good look at all the different aspects of hydrological functions and use science to devise better forest management systems.”

Dr. Shirong Liu, President of the Chinese Academy of Forestry, Vice-President of IUFRO, and also deputy coordinator of the TF said: “In 2018, the TF Forests, Soil and Water Interactions played a key role in developing a global assessment on forests and water. While that report supports high-level dialogue and discussion, there is a need to develop guidance for on-the-ground forest practices.

“We have also noted a lack of science-based operational guidelines to support management practices in regard to water protection,” he added.

The TF will evaluate the interaction between science and related policy responses concerning the decline of water values in some forest areas, global forest decline and inter-related climate and landscape scale forest disturbance impacts.

Among other objectives, the TF will examine and evaluate the impacts of vegetation restoration projects on water supply in arid and semi-arid ecosystems and take a look at the effects on forest and water interactions by forest management, afforestation and reforestation at local and regional scales.

Dr. Wei said: “Given the pool of expertise in our TF and our plan to work with other IUFRO TFs and Divisions, I see this as a great opportunity to promote synergy and collaboration across different parts of the world and among different disciplines. One good example is that our TF members are working with a team led by FAO to develop a publication on how to manage forest for water, including how to monitor, implement on-the-ground practices and build a business case. The publication: A Guide to Forest-Water Management will be released later this year.

“We also plan to develop a special journal issue of synthesized papers to assist forest management practices in the context of water protection. This will benefit forest industries, researchers, municipalities and planners,” he added.

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Forest and Water on a Changing Planet: Vulnerability, Adaptation and Governance Opportunities. A Global Assessment Report. Editors: Irena F. Creed and Meine van Noordwijk (GFEP – Expert Panel on Forests and Water 2018): https://www.iufro.org/science/gfep/gfep-initiative/panel-on-forests-and-water/

IUFRO Task Force ‘Forests and Water Interactions in a Changing Environment’:
https://www.iufro.org/science/task-forces/forests-water-interaction-changing-environment/

(Preceded by the Task Force ‘Forests, Soil and Water Interactions’:
https://www.iufro.org/science/task-forces/former-task-forces/forests-soil-water/)

The IUFRO Task Forces are established on a temporary basis during each 5-year IUFRO Board term and focus on emerging key forest-related issues. The nine current TFs will run till 2024 at which time their relevance will be assessed in relation to the forest issues of the day.

IUFRO Spotlight #85 – Variety: the spice of life, also for future forests

IUFRO Spotlight #85 – Variety: the spice of life, also for future forests

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Cork oak seeds (Viterbo, Italy). Photo by Dr. Giovanbattista de Dato

Forests in the Mediterranean and similar biodiversity hotspot regions are degrading rapidly due to the interaction of multiple stressors – both natural and anthropogenic.

The accelerated degradation poses a serious threat to the diversity of forest genetic resources (FGR).

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Spotlight #84 – Task Force probes ‘whys’ behind increased tree mortality

Spotlight #84 – Task Force probes ‘whys’ behind increased tree mortality

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Several trees of different species died after the strong hot and dry period during the 2015-16 El Niño drought in Central Amazon (photo). Now scientists are trying to understand the impacts of this drought event, and subsequent tree mortality, on the carbon stocks in the Amazon basin. Photo by Adriane Esquivel Muelbert

Tree mortality appears to be increasing at unprecedented rates.

One may be tempted to think: So what? Trees regenerate. They’ll grow back.

But, for a lot of reasons, it’s not quite that simple.

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Spotlight #83 – Examining the Economic Drivers of Wildfire: Where There’s Smoke, There’s Finance

Spotlight #83 – Examining the Economic Drivers of Wildfire: Where There’s Smoke, There’s Finance

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Professional firefighters try to stop an advancing fire with the help of local volunteers in Galicia, Spain. Photo by Nelson Grima

“The world is ablaze. Or so it seems, and the scenario is repeating itself every year now,” says Dr. François-Nicolas Robinne, of the University of Alberta’s Department of Renewable Resources, and Coordinator of IUFRO’s Fire$: Economic Drivers of Global Wildland Fire Activity Task Force (TF).

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Spotlight #82 – More local involvement one key to FLR success

Spotlight #82 – More local involvement one key to FLR success

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“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

Involvement of local people is key to successful forest landscape restoration (example from India). Photo credit: Michael Kleine, IUFRO.

That classic line from the Paul Newman movie, Cool Hand Luke, has since become a catch phrase to describe situations – some comical, others quite serious – that go awry when people aren’t on the same page.

Used in its more serious sense, that phrase can explain the failure of many Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) projects.

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Spotlight #81 – Developing evidence-based cases for planted forests

Spotlight #81 – Developing evidence-based cases for planted forests

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Polycyclic mixed plantation, 5 years old, in Veneto (Italy). Photo by Paolo Mori.

Plantation forests get a bad rap.

That’s the assessment of Christophe Orazio, who is coordinator of the IUFRO Task Force (TF) on Resilient Planted Forests and, after having led the Planted Forests Facility of the European Forest Institute (EFI-PFF) until its closure in 2019, is now director of the European Institute for Cultivated Forest (IEFC).

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Polycyclic mixed plantation, 5 years old, in Veneto (Italy). Photo by Paolo Mori.

Plantation forests get a bad rap.

That’s the assessment of Christophe Orazio, who is coordinator of the IUFRO Task Force (TF) on Resilient Planted Forests and, after having led the Planted Forests Facility of the European Forest Institute (EFI-PFF) until its closure in 2019, is now director of the European Institute for Cultivated Forest (IEFC).

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Spotlight #80 – Becoming visible – non-timber forest products and a sustainable economy

Spotlight #80 – Becoming visible – non-timber forest products and a sustainable economy

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Becoming visible – here leaves of Cinnamomum tamala, traded in thousands of tonnes. Photo by Carsten Smith-Hall

One positive and largely overlooked outcome of the current coronavirus could be a stronger bioeconomy.

“I think the pandemic is going to spur the bioeconomy,” said Dr. James Chamberlain of the United States Forest Service, Southern Research Station in Blacksburg, Virginia, and Coordinator of IUFRO’s Unlocking the Bioeconomy and Non-Timber Forest Products Task Force.

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Spotlight #79 – A Focus on Gender Equality in Forestry

Spotlight #79 – A Focus on Gender Equality in Forestry

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Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

When one thinks of forests, forestry and forest research, gender equality is probably not the first thing that springs to mind.

But it actually makes a lot of sense, explains Dr. Gun Lidestav, of the Department of Forest Resource Management at the Swedish University of Agricultural Science. Dr Lidestav is also Coordinator of the IUFRO Gender Equality in Forestry Task Force (TF).

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IUFRO Spotlight #78 – More robust strategy needed to combat forest fires in Alps

IUFRO Spotlight #78 – More robust strategy needed to combat forest fires in Alps

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An increasing risk of forest fires in the European Alps has led to a white paper that proposes a framework for integrated fire management to address the drivers of the current and future fire regimes in mountain forests.

Photo: 272447, Pixabay

To develop the white paper, entitled Forest Fires in the Alps, a panel from all member states of the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region (EUSALP) – Austria, Germany, Italy, France, Slovenia, Switzerland and Liechtenstein – was established. These scientists, members of action forces, authorities and other forest fire experts pulled together the fire experiences and knowledge of the various countries.

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IUFRO Spotlight #77 – Stepping up the Global Discussion on Forest Education

IUFRO Spotlight #77 – Stepping up the Global Discussion on Forest Education

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“The future is for the young generation,” said Dr. Shirong Liu of the Chinese Academy of Forestry.

“And,” he added, “changes in the forest sector have led to new trends in forest education globally.

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