Sustainable management of dry forests (Google / UN News Centre)

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FORESTS: Participants at UN forum call for sustainable management of dry forests

Forest landscapes in drylands – known as dry forests – play a crucial role in tackling global challenges such as poverty and climate change and must by properly managed, participants at the United Nations Forum on Forests underscored today.

Dry forests cover about 40 per cent of the Earth’s surface. They are important biodiversity sanctuaries; provide ecosystem goods such as fuel, wood for construction, medicines and herbs; and act as a buffer against drought and desertification.

“I think you cannot overestimate the critical social, environmental and economic services provided by these dry forests,” said Alexander Buck, Executive Director of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO).

The group – a network for forest science cooperation that unites more than 15,000 scientists in almost 700 member organizations in over 110 countries – is one of many taking part in the Forum’s tenth session (UNFF10), which opened on Monday in Istanbul.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), forests and trees in drylands – if managed properly – can not only combat desertification, but also help alleviate poverty, provide options for adapting to climate change and limit erosion.

“By supporting the millions of people who live in the world’s dry areas, forests and trees in drylands can contribute to the FAO mandate of achieving food security,” stated the agency.

At the same time, it pointed out that dryland forests are subject to a host of challenges, including deforestation, degradation and desertification, driven by adverse land-use policies and subsidies, poor governance and a lack of investment in their sustainable management and restoration.

FAO has developed a set of global guidelines for restoring the resilience of forest landscapes in drylands which is currently under review. The guidelines – which seek to help achieve the global target to restore 150 million hectares of degraded lands worldwide by 2020 – will be launched at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in September this year.


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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