Setting an ‘Earthy’ Standard
By Jean-Michel Carnus, Coordinator, IUFRO Division 8
Since 2003, 26 European specialists in humus forms have been working to develop a standardized system of classifying the condition and configuration of topsoil layers adapted to European ecological conditions.
The result of their work could become an international reference, of which, none exists today.
Studies have shown that soils store more carbon than terrestrial vegetation and the atmosphere combined, and also that soil organic matter plays a key role in the global carbon cycle as it stores huge amounts of carbon and thus counters global warming.
It is also known that some soil organic matter remains stable for thousands of years while other soil organic matter degrades quickly and releases carbon into the atmosphere thereby reinforcing the greenhouse effect.
So, as the earth’s climate warms and concerns increase about the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, a standardized system will allow a better understanding of the role of the humus forms in the carbon cycle – and the conditions under which they represent a sink (absorbing carbon), or a source (releasing carbon into the atmosphere).
Humus forms – the brown or black layers consisting of partially or wholly decayed matter – provide nutrients for plants and increase the ability of soil to retain water. These layers contain a large part of the total soil organic carbon and provide an interface between the atmosphere and the mineral soil, representing an important linkage to aquatic systems.
The main challenge the specialists have sought to address is the lack of harmony that exists in classification keys for humus forms – they are different in every European country.
Those classification differences mean that data cannot be easily exchanged among research teams, land managers and policy makers working with soils in different countries.
The specialists’ aim is to improve the compatibility of those established national classification systems and to develop a unified European reference base for humus forms. The classification system is geared primarily to West European countries between 40-60 degrees of latitude, but it’s expected to work in other ecosystems of equivalent climate. It has already been successfully tested in some forests in Iran.
While aimed primarily at forest soils, the classification system is also applicable to grasslands, pastures and wetlands.
One of the keys to this standardization is to recognize differences in local ecosystems and the need to analyze the soil horizons – layers parallel to the soil surface, whose physical characteristics differ from the layers above and beneath – of each different humus form.
The European specialists have set up protocols for the assessment and sampling of certain horizons and have developed definitions for specific diagnostic horizons, materials and their designation.
Acceptance of this classification system will provide a valuable tool to help us better understand the connection between different humus forms and carbon storage in the soil and the response of soil organic matter to a warming climate.
To view the full report, go to: [http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001670611100139X] (summarized as published article)
and [http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/56/17/95/PDF/Humus_Forms_ERB_31_01_2011.pdf] (unpublished complete document)
- A European morpho-functional classification of humus forms, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001670611100139X
- European Humus Forms Reference Base, http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/56/17/95/PDF/Humus_Forms_ERB_31_01_2011.pdf
IUFRO Division 8 – Forest Environment: http://www.iufro.org/science/divisions/division-8/80000/
New Humus forms, in a structured dynamic system of classification. Photo provided by Augusto Zanella, Deputy Coordinator of IUFRO 8.02.03.
Putting Experts to the Test
By: Jurij Beguš, Coordinator, IUFRO 9.01.03 Extension and Knowledge Exchange
(Slovenia Forest Service, Department for Forestry Technique)
Expert knowledge – advice and-or recommendations from those who have spent much time researching and learning about a given subject area – is often used by resource managers who do not themselves have the time or resources to collect all the data necessary to make a sound decision.
That expert knowledge, which can be used in highly diverse situations in various ecosystems and geographical areas, can assist with forest management, eco- regionalization, species conservation or environmental impact assessment. Read more…
Forests: Medicine for Body and Soul
By Hannu Raitio, Coordinator of IUFRO Task Force ForHealth
(DG Finnish Forest Research Institute, Metla)
Imagine a doctor who, rather than advising the usual: “Take these pills daily for the next two weeks,” says instead: “Take long walks in the forest daily for the next two weeks. That should get you back to normal.”
There is a growing body of scientific research that suggests forests and other natural, green settings can reduce stress, improve moods, curtail aggressiveness and – possibly – even strengthen our immune systems.
Medical and health care costs are a skyrocketing financial burden in many, if not all, countries around the world – often funded through taxation or other common responsibility arrangements. Read more…
By Robert Jandl, Deputy Coordinator of IUFRO Division 8
In the coming decades, forests will play a major role in our planet’s carbon cycle and in our efforts to manage the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
Getting a better understanding of whether that role might be good (a sink, absorbing carbon) or bad (a source, adding carbon to the atmosphere), motivated a study by Yude Pan and colleagues, recently published in Science Express.
The study identifies global forests as the major terrestrial carbon sink (as opposed to grasslands, peatlands or agricultural lands). It is the first such study to base conclusions on forest inventory and land cover data instead of simulation results. Read more…
End trade in detrimental ornamentals to save forests
By Eckehard Brockerhoff, IUFRO Deputy Coordinator of Division 7
(SCION, New Zealand)
In a provocative attempt to save the world’s forests, a group of 70-plus scientists from 17 countries are asking trade policy makers around the globe to phase out such international trade in high-risk plants that put forest health at high risk while offering limited economic benefit.
If the scientists’ proposal is implemented, it would mean an end to all international trade in containerized ornamental plant seedlings and trees intended as plants for instant landscape planting. Read more…
Traditional Forest-Related Knowledge: Sustaining Communities, Ecosystems and Biocultural Diversity
By Su See Lee, IUFRO Vice-President
A new book invites forest scientists to think outside the box – or, perhaps outside the laboratory – and make more of an effort to incorporate elements of traditional knowledge in their research and forest management activities.
The book, Traditional Forest-Related Knowledge: Sustaining Communities, Ecosystems and Biocultural Diversity, published by Springer just this month, takes a long look at the contribution traditional knowledge has made and continues to make to sustainable resource management around the world. Read more…
Forest research matters. All of us under the IUFRO umbrella know that.
Research is what we, in our member organizations, do. It is who we are.
In addition to increasing our understanding of the world in which we live, there can be – and often are – important policy implications for our research findings. And we know very well that good sustainable forest management decisions can only be made based on sound science.
For that reason, IUFRO is embarking on a new initiative called IUFRO Spotlight to introduce timely, significant forest research findings from our member organizations to a worldwide network of policy makers, other decision makers and researchers. Read more…
2 volumes of IUFRO’s World Series have just been newly published. The IUFRO World Series was designed to give IUFRO officeholders a possibility to make their expertise known to a larger public. In most cases, reports resulting from IUFRO meetings, IUFRO Task Force reports or results from the work of IUFRO Special Projects and Programmes are published in this series. The main focus is on original research devoted to specific themes either in the form of collected articles or as single extensive contributions.
Volume 26: Traditional Forest Related Knowledge, Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Forest Management in Eastern Europe, Northern and Central Asia.
Andrey Laletin, John A. Parrotta, Ilya Domashov (editors). Vienna, 2011 – 78 p.
Forests and woodlands that are the traditional homes of local communities in Eastern Europe, Northern and Central Asia have historically been managed by these communities themselves, or more recently in collaboration with government agencies. Traditional forest-related knowledge (TFRK) and innovative forest management practices, developed over centuries, have contributed significantly to the natural and cultural heritage of the region, and sustained production of multiple goods and services that enhance livelihood security and quality of life for people. The conference provided a platform for sharing of information and exchanging experiences among scientists, the holders and users of traditional knowledge, non-governmental organizations, forest managers and other relevant stakeholders related to forest biodiversity and traditional forest-related knowledge. The conference highlighted the importance of traditional knowledge towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the objectives of the Rio Conventions, and its contributions to sustainable forest management.
For more information visit: http://www.iufro.org/publications/series/world-series/#c16553
In December 2010, a symposium was held in Manila, the Philippines, to lo0k at the vulnerability of ecosystems to natural and anthropogenic hazards and how best to assess it. The main objective of the symposium was to enhance the capability and capacity of participants in conducting vulnerability assessment of various ecosystems. It served as a venue for exchange of knowledge and initiatives in vulnerability assessment. The symposium was also expected to come up with output materials that will be useful in preparing appropriate programmes/projects to deal with the inherent biophysical and socioinstitutional characteristics of ecosystems and the stressors of the resources including the impacts of climate change.
Learn more about this publication at http://www.iufro.org/publications/series/world-series/#c18479
PDF document for download
The current set of international forest governance arrangements is best seen as a complex hybrid mix of international law, soft law, and non-governmental performance-based measures such as international certification schemes and industry codes of conduct. A diverse array of organizations and interest groups, all with different mandates, create the institutional environment for forest policy and governance. All of these actors are dedicated to supporting the different functions of forests, developing and implementing measures designed to protect the forest benefits, and interacting – often in a competitive manner – with each other for political and financial support at different levels. There are an increasing number of governance challenges, such as the demand for bioenergy and legally harvested and produced timber (e.g. EU Timber Regulation on banning illegal timber products from the EU market, to be applied in early 2013). There is clear evidence from research that complex forest problems require synergistic approaches involving a wide range of policy instruments.
There are two concepts that could guide efforts towards a more effective international forest governance: problem focused policy learning is enabled by including from the start a broad group of stakeholders and institutions inside and outside of the forest sector and by gathering practical advice, practitioners’ knowledge, insights and the best available research. In addition, impacts between various policies and policy levels need to be better understood. Improved institutional intersection, in which different interventions perform specific functions, might lead to adaptive capacities in ways a single institution could not. In order to improve the understanding and practical application of these two concepts, the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) is currently establishing a new Task Force on International Forest Governance to address institutional intersection and policy learning.
A Contribution to Forest Europe
Policy learning and institutional intersection may support and guide the implementation of commitments declared in the ‘Oslo Ministerial Decision: European Forests 2020′, such as the European Ministers’ decision: (i) to develop and update policies and tools for sustainable forest management, including by facilitating open and flexible policy dialogue; (ii) to monitor, assess and facilitate implementation of commitments on sustainable forest management in all European countries and in the region; and (iii) to facilitate sharing of experiences across countries, sectors and stakeholders on all aspects of sustainable forest management and other forest related issues (see articles 21a-c).
The state of play of European forest governance and challenges
- European regional agreements with regard to governance include the Oslo Ministerial Mandate for Negotiating a Legally Binding Agreement on Forests in Europe, and the EU FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) Action Plan, setting the goal of combating illegal harvesting and illegal timber trade in environment, trade and development cooperation policies.
- With these developments, domestic challenges arise. There is fragmentation of institutions and authority in addressing key goals. For example, good forest governance was originally seen as a development issue, but has become a trade issue also. The EU and Member States are facing the challenge to link the development agencies with the trade agencies and to find synergistic ways how to work together, that do not violate the legal responsibilities of either.
- As Europe with FLEGT is commending good governance elsewhere in such a coherent and concerned way, the EU and Member States are facing the challenge to also demonstrate good forest governance within the region in order to not lose legitimacy and credibility at international level.
What research can do
- Defining and implementing interaction between trade, development and natural resource policies is not as simple as it might seem. Researchers can uncover the pathways through which synergies could be facilitated by new institutional arrangements and new policy approaches. For example, incentives and signals from FLEGT could encourage supply chain tracking, often through the use of certification bodies, which then help to reinforce good forest governance in developing countries.
- Researchers have an ability to identify: what are the most synergistic pathways for interactions between the different actors and entities? And what does this mean for developing strategic directions and decisions in order to guide actors with often conflicting mandates and diverse institutional cultures? What are the obstacles for the formulation and implementation of policies and institutions fostering ‘good’ governance principles?
- Policy learning is the attempt to adjust the goals or techniques of policy in response to past experience and new information. In the complex context of European forest policy, policy learning can only begin when stakeholders, practitioners, government agencies, civil society organizations, and scientists create, through deliberation, a joint understanding of the context and nature of forest problems from a wide variety of perspectives. The success of this learning process depends upon having the best available information about policy options as informed by research, practice, and the experience of civil society.
- Policy learning that occurs in a deliberative process will expose legitimate differences over goals and objectives that divide stakeholders but, by creating a common understanding of ‘how things work’, policy learning also can reveal win-win solutions. For example, at the same time that participants learn about the viability of one or more efforts – such as FLEGT, certification and management plans etc. – they learn about the challenges confronting other stakeholders.
- The most important level of learning about potential solutions to public problems is at the level of intersection of institutions. It simply is no longer the case that a single intervention sits alone by itself and has no impact anywhere else. In fact any international negotiation or deliberation only has an impact when it actually interacts with something else, e.g. with domestic legislation or certification or national forest programmes.
- There is a role for research simultaneously involving practitioners and civil society to analyse the different interactions among government and market mechanisms across global, national and local scales that might produce innovative, effective and enduring results.
- For example, the supply chain tracking in the framework of the FLEGT process involves public and private actors at different levels – sub-nationally, nationally and internationally – and therefore could lead to broad global coalition for good forest governance in a way a single intervention, such as private certification schemes can not achieve.
- The institutional intersection approach is now gaining growing acceptance as illustrated by the UN Rio 2012 summit’s focus on the two themes: ‘green economy’ and ‘institutional framework for sustainable development’.
What can Forest Europe do?
- Forest Europe can play a key role in promoting policy learning and institutional intersection by sharing a learning platform involving multiple stakeholders, informed by the best available information about policy options.
- It can facilitate stakeholder and civil society participation at domestic level by creating forums for deliberation with scientists, policy makers, and forest managers at local, sub-national and national levels. For example, the national forest programme process could be a national-level learning forum.
- It can support engagement of policy makers in scientific meetings focused on governance and policy, such as the IUFRO All-Division 9 ‘Forest Policy and Economics’ Conference in Sarajevo in May 2012.
- It can support policy-research networks, like the FOPER network in Southeast Europe, that are actively researching public problems identified through stakeholder processes with the purpose of contributing to policy makers, practitioners and civil society as well as to the research community.
- And it can actively promote the role of Forest Europe in the global discussion on forest governance by assuming a leadership role in creating the institutional capacity for policy learning and collaborative research necessary to provide adaptive governance capacity for the future.
Embracing complexity: Meeting the challenges of international forest governance. A global assessment report. This report was prepared in the frame of the Global Forest Expert Panels (GFEP), an initiative established within the framework of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF). The report was led and coordinated by IUFRO. Visit: http://www.iufro.org/science/gfep/
The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) is the only world-wide organization devoted to forest research and related sciences. Its members are research institutions, universities, and individual scientists as well as decision-making authorities and other stakeholders with a focus on forests and trees. Visit: http://www.iufro.org/
PDF document for download
IUFRO World Series Vol. 28, Edited by: Jeremy Rayner, Alexander Buck, Pia Katila
A new study assessing inter-national efforts to improve forest governance was issued together with a policy brief on 24 January 2011 by the Global Forest Expert Panel on International Forest Regime. It suggests among other things that global efforts have too often ignored local needs and failed to address the fact that deforestation is usually caused by economic pressures from outside the forests. The detailed results of the work of the expert panel, which was constituted under the Collaborative Partnership on Forests and coordinated by IUFRO, was presented to the Ninth Session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) on 31 January 2011 as part of the launch of the International Year of Forests.
The report, the policy brief and a press release – New Study Suggests Global Pacts Like REDD Ignore Primary Causes of Destruction of Forests – are available for download.
Report and Policy Brief (English/French/Spanish): http://www.iufro.org/science/gfep/forest-regime-panel/report/
Press Release: http://www.iufro.org/science/gfep/media-information/gfep-ifr-assessment-press-release/
For more information about the Expert Panel on International Forest regime, please visit: