Can Climate Change be a Driver for Land-Use Change and Adaptive Forest Management?

C-01 Climate Change: A Driver for Land-Use Change and Adaptive Forest Management on Six Continents

 

How is our changing climate impacting our forest ecosystems, and how do we deal with the myriad issues associated with this controversial subject?

Source: Neil Palmer/CIAT for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Source: Neil Palmer/CIAT for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Tuesday’s session on this meaty subject brought together discussions on the role a changing climate can play in informing policy decisions regarding the management of forest ecosystems within the context of adaptive, collaborative resource management.

Switzerland’s Marc Hanewinkel gave a fascinating talk about the impacts of climate change on major forest ecosystems in Europe. Using various models and scenarios that projected anticipated climate changes into the year 2100, Hanewinkel outlined a number of significant scenarios the continent is likely to deal with over the next several decades. Of note, were the uncertainties concerning the amount of precipitation anticipated across a large swath of the continent. Rising temperatures are likely to increase the maximum number of continuous dry days, especially in the countries along the Mediterranean coast, while biome shifts in some areas might be inevitable.

Why should we care about the anticipated rise in continuous dry days, or biome shifts? According to Hanewinkel, these changes could have very serious ramifications on forest management. Some of the synergistic interactions associated with such changes might lead to increased Net Primary Production (NPP) in countries in Northern Europe, while there would be an opposite effect in the south. Increased productivity, he pointed out, is not necessarily good.

Systems can be very productive, and all of a sudden, face sudden and catastrophic collapse due to unknown interactions associated with climate change. Non-economical tree species might experience increased productivity, while valuable species (e.g., European Beech and Oak) might not, leading to their rapid decline. Forest pests and diseases brought on by climate change might be also compound these trees’ demise.

Case studies from the United States on climate change and its effect on species population growth or demise corroborated some of the observations from the European example. These findings argued that changes in climate could lead to misaligning of tree species populations with respect to their suitable climatic habitats. Species that will better adapt and survive will depend on their ability to modify their phenotypes (phenotypic plasticity), and most likely their genotypes as well.

The example from Asia highlighted in the session illustrated the dynamism that has characterized forest management, from centralized to highly decentralized systems driven largely by the social change that has occurred over time. It is somewhat uncertain what kind of social changes a shift in climate might proffer upon institutions that are responsible for forest management in that continent.

All these examples highlight the complexity that lies ahead for policymakers, politicians, and others during these changing times. How will they deal with the uncertainties associated with forest management issues and other ecosystems in the face of climate change? Many of the ecosystem services that forests provide are sure to be altered in unknown ways.

The presenters reiterated that these uncertainties will drive the agenda for adaptive collaborative management. Decision-makers will be forced to work with the limited and sometimes controversial data/knowledge, collaborate across sectors, and craft plans for confronting the uncertain impact climate change will have on our forests. Going forward, our changing climate will drive the agenda for adaptive management of forests and other resources.

 

Written by: Humphrey Kalibo

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